Free impounded funds for disaster work, Chiz tells PGMA

Sen.  Chiz Escudero   today   asked President Arroyo to free billions of pesos in impounded funds in the national budget which can be used to help people and places hit by Typhoon 'Frank.'

Escudero identified at least P6.6 worth of funds which if added to the Calamity Fund of P2 billion for the year can aid typhoon victims and repair damaged public infrastructure.

"There is no reason why aid should come in trickles to flood-hit areas when there are certain segments in the national budget, other than the Calamity Fund, which can be tapped for disaster work, "Escudero said.

These funds, he said, are:

·P2 billion Kilos Asenso Fund

·P3.6 billion Financial Subsidy to Local Government Units

·P1 billion Kalayaan Barangay Fund

"The release of these funds is contingent on the President's approval.   She should dig into these funds so there will be more resources available for relief work", Escudero said.

"This is bigger than the $100,000 aid the President got from the US State Department, one which was met with profuse thanks from her, as if she had won the lotto, when in fact she has at her easy disposal all the above-mentioned funds to use in times like this" he said.

He added that the funds are classified as "lump-sum" +funds and have not been earmarked for any particular area, "so there is flexibility and wider latitude on where to apply these."

The senator, however, clarified that he is not calling for the "full diversion "of the funds to calamity areas, "only that the latter be prioritized in the allocation."

"Or if there is formula being followed in the apportioning of these funds, then maybe Iloilo's share be given in advance, "Escudero said, referring to the Western Visayas province hardest hit by "Frank."

Escudero said "local government leaders I canvassed have told me that they have yet to receive any allotment from Kilos Asenso or Kalayaan Barangay which means that these funds technically are still on embargo."

Cong. Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo's fourth district and Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico both decried slow government response to the devastation in their province.

The P2 billion Kilos Asenso Fund is included in the P228.2  billion Allocations for Local Government Units (ALGU) item in Republic Act 9498, or the General Appropriations Act for 2008. The biggest component in this block is the P210.7 billion earmarked for Internal Revenue Allotment of LGUs.

Also included in the ALGU is some P3.6 billion in "Financial Subsidy to LGUs", which is designed to partly fund the premium contributions of local governments in the Phil Health enrollment of their   indigent constituents.

"This can be used to  address  public health  challenges which arose from the calamity ,  which  include  repair of hospitals,  replenishment of  medical stocks,  and  settlement of  Phil Health claims,  usage which meets  the congressional intent about this particular expenditure", he said

The Kalayaan Barangay   on the other hand, forms part of the P51 billion budget of the Department of National Defense.  To be implemented by the Armed Forces, the P1-bilion fund is intended for the development of dissident-threatened villages.#