P32B in total Yolanda aid released as of mid-May

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MANILA, May 23 -- Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio Abad on said Thursday said that P32.2 billion in funds have already been released for post-Yolanda aid as of May 15 this year, in keeping with the Aquino administration’s vow to prioritize rehabilitation efforts in areas struck by the super typhoon in November 2013.

The releases span several government agencies in charge of various post-disaster relief and reconstruction programs in Yolanda-hit communities.

“The President was very clear about the Administration’s goal of restoring normalcy in Yolanda-stricken communities. The delivery of aid services and the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure continues to be a priority for this government. With more releases on the way, agencies involved should be able to move quickly to help affected communities recover from the disaster,” Abad said.

Critical immediate projects under the first phase of the government’s Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) program were funded with major fund releases as approved by President Benigno S. Aquino III. These releases include P5.4 billion for the National Electrification Administraton’s (NEA) distribution and transmission facilities to restore power in typhoon-hit areas, as well as P2.2 billion to the National Housing Association (NHA) to support its housing initiatives.

Releases for RAY1 approved by the Office of the President (OP) also include P2.01 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for municipal halls, public markets/civic centers, and police stations damaged by Yolanda.

“Immediately after Yolanda swept through the country, the DBM moved as fast as it could to secure OP approval for releases that could support our most urgent aid requirements. One major challenge in delivering aid to Yolanda was the fact that affected communities were left with little to no electricity. That was one of the first things we sought to remedy,” Abad said.

Meanwhile, Calamity Funds under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FYs 2012 and 2013 helped support releases to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the augmentation of Quick Relief Funds (QRFs) by P1.07 billion. This was used to fund relief operations in Yolanda-affected areas.

FY 2013 Continuing Appropriations also supported a P1.8-billion release to the Department of Health (DOH), P500 million of which went to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center. It also accounted for a P467-million release for rescue, recovery, and relief efforts under the DILG and another P833-million for various infrastructure-related efforts under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Last year’s Unprogrammed Fund also covered P1.71 billion for the provision of fishing boats and livelihood programs implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

The DBM also reported that P14.6 billion from the Supplemental Appropriations allowed releases for crop/livestock/fisheries-related activities under the Department of Agriculture (DA) and infrastructure rehabilitation/reconstruction projects under the DPWH. A P50-million release also allowed for victim identification through the Department of Justice (DOJ), besides supporting the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) emergency employment program.

“The calamity’s most devastating effect was mirrored in the lives it claimed. One of our most urgent concerns was to very quickly identify the victims so their families could give them a proper burial. Meanwhile, we had to take care of those who survived Yolanda by ensuring they had enough support to rebuild their livelihood and the damaged structures in their communities,” Abad noted.

The budget chief also reassured the public that ample funds were still available to fund post-Yolanda operations. Fund sources include the 2014 GAA and remaining FY 2013 appropriations under various agencies.

He also noted that the request for the release of funds for the rehabilitation of 35 state universities and colleges under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was already submitted by the DBM to OP last April. The funds will be rolled out pending the latter’s approval.(