P-Noy tells troops: Shortage in funds not a hindrance to disaster service

July 23, 2010 10:43 pm 

MANILA, July 23 — President Benigno Simeon Aquino III called on the country's troops on Friday to carry on with their civil defense and disaster duties with renewed vigor and determination, even if support funding will be hampered by a shortage in calamity funds caused by the previous administration.

Addressing the turnover of command of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio, the President said that much of the calamity funds were already spent during the first half of the year, leaving little for the second half when more weather disturbances are expected to hit the country.

In today’s ceremonies, the President installed Major General Arturo B. Ortiz as the new Philippine Army chief, replacing Lieutenant General Reynaldo Mapagu, who was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Halos nilimas na po ang pondong dapat magagamit sana natin sa darating na mga buwan. Hindi pa po nangangalahati ang mga bagyong inaasahan natin na darating sa taong ito, ngunit kung tatawagin kayo upang manguna sa mga search and rescue efforts, puso at tapang ang magiging pangunahin ninyong kasangkapan, dahil na rin sa kakapusan sa pondo at kagamitan (The calamity funds are almost depleted, but we are not even halfway through the number of typhoons that are expected to arrive during the year. However, if called upon for search and rescue efforts, heart and courage will be your primary instrument because of inadequate funds and equipment),” the President said.

According to the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he would not allow such practices under his administration.

“Hindi na po tayo papayag na magpatuloy ang ganitong kalakaran. Hindi tama na kung sino pa ang nagmamalasakit, kung sino pa ang labis-labis ang sakripisyo para sa bayan, kayo pa ang pinahihirapan (We will no longer tolerate these practices. It is not right for those who sacrifice so much to suffer),” the President stressed.

Initial funds inventory disclosed recently by Budget Secretary Butch Abad showed that there are not enough funds left to deal with calamities and disasters this year. Abad said less than 30 percent, or P592,034,346, remained of the P2 billion calamity fund allocated in the 2010 budget.

As the Arroyo administration has already used up to 70.4 percent or P1,407,965,654 in the first half of the year, Abad suggests that calamity funds may not be adequate to cope with this year’s typhoon season.

Of the remaining funds, the previous administration had not released the Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Department of National Defense (DND), which amounts to P605,500,000.

Still, about P315,150,000 in commitments by the Arroyo government will have to be deducted, which will eventually result in a negative balance in the calamity funds.

In a media briefing after the turnover rites, the President said the DBM is looking at realigning the remaining savings from the P1.5-trillion national budget, such as the untapped P1 billion or P1.5 billion fund of the Kilos Asenso program.

The 54-year-old Ortiz was a recipient of the Valor of Medal, the highest award given by the military, three Gold Cross medals and numerous distinctions. “He was highly recommended by the Board of Generals,” President Aquino said.

The Chief Executive said he would work with Ortiz and the entire military hierarchy in pushing the reforms and modernization of the AFP “to better serve the interest of the foot soldiers and the public towards attaining peace, stability and progress.“

“Only with peace and order can stability take hold. And only with stability can economic progress ensue,” President Aquino pointed out. (PNA)

scs/OPS/ssc

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