Drilon Tells Gov't: Realign NTF-ELCAC Funds for Odette Relief

As well as the funds of agencies with low disbursement rates.
Photo/s: Jilson Tiu, Greenpeace Handout via Reuters

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday suggested that government realign funds for its anti-communist task force and of other agencies with low disbursement rates to finance relief operations for victims of Typhoon Odette.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said the government had no money to assist the typhoon victims, although he committed around P2 billion-worth of assistance to local chief executives of calamity-stricken areas later on.

Drilon said the Department of Finance could do a "cash sweep" of the released, but unspent, funds parked in the bank accounts of national government agencies to help fund the relief effort.

The Minority Leader said some government agencies have very poor disbursement or utilization rates. These include the Department of Public Works and Highways which only disbursed about 30% of the funds released to them.

"The NTF-ELCAC funds can also be realigned for relief operations," Drilon said, which has a P19.1 billion budget for 2021.

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"There are also billions of pesos parked in the coffers of PS-DBM and PITC for unimplemented projects," he added, referring to the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management and the Philippine International Trading Corp.

Drilon has long opposed the budget of the NTF-ELCAC, saying that the task force's programs are also being done by other government agencies and its budget could be used for the 2022 elections.

He has also criticized the Procuurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management and the Philippine International Trading Corp, where unused and unexpended funds from various government agencies are transferred and parked instead of being returned to the Bureau of Treasury.

"By doing a 'cash sweep', the projects’ implementation are simply postponed to 2022, since the 2021 GAA is extended to December 2022. As they say, if there is a will, there is a way," the senator said.

Duterte has placed six regions affected by Typhoon Odette under state of calamity, allowing them to access their calamity funds to fast-track their relief and rehabilitation efforts.

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