Where is the calamity fund? Filipinos question Eduardo Año’s appeal for donations to the public amid Taal disaster

January 15, 2020 - 6:00 PM
Eduardo Ano
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año speaking to the media. (Philippine News Agency/Lloyd Caliwan)

Issues of last year’s calamity fund reduction surfaced after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año appealed for the public to donate essentials for Filipinos affected by Taal Volcano’s activity.

In a statement released yesterday, he encouraged people to donate “clean drinking water, food, emergency medicines and other basic essentials” such as tents, mats, blankets, water containers and cooking pots for the displaced families.

The donations may be coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development or through local government units.

While well-meaning, Año’s call earned criticisms from some Filipinos who pointed out that the government should be the ones at the forefront of such operations as they recalled a particular budget set for such events.

“Pero nasaan pala ang calamity fund ng bayan? Nasaan ang pondo ng Office of the President? Nasaan ang mga pork barrel ng mga nasa Kongreso?… Ibalik ninyong mga nasa gobyerno ang perang para sa publiko. Now na!” Twitter user @k_claridad wrote.

“Ah, if the government can afford an eight billion budget for the Office of the President alone, the government has no right to ask for donation. Calamity fund? DILG fund?” user @fdposa said.

“Why are you asking us taxpayers to donate? We have paid our dues, use it for calamities. Unless inubos niyo na,” wrote user @SidLumawig.

It could be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte’s budget for 2020 breezed through a House panel with a staggering amount of P8.2 billion, reports note.

It is 21% higher than the P6.77 billion written on the General Appropriations Act and most of it would be allocated for his supposed confidential and intelligence funds amounting to P4.5 billion.

“DILG is asking the public for donations to help those affected by the Taal eruption. All these and more, after slashing the calamity fund by 11 billion pesos in 2019. Sweet priorities,” wrote user @karlosaurus_rex.

“Did you know that the Congress cut Duterte’s calamity fund by 11 billion pesos and increased the budget of the Office of the President? Now, the Local Government’s secretary is asking for relief goods and donations for the victims of the calamity,” user @J_Carlos_H said.

The appeal for donations was made following the steam-driven eruption of Taal Volcano on Sunday afternoon that caused nearby communities to evacuate for safety.

The volcano released plumes as high as 100 meters and ashfall that reached as far as Quezon City, among others.

Batangas, the province housing the volcano, is already placed under a state of calamity where over 200,000 residents are directly affected.

Different entities have also organized donation efforts such as the Philippine Red Cross, Philippine STAR, Don Bosco Makati Pastoral Office, Caritas Manila and Akbayanihan Foundation, among others.

The calamity fund 

While the Interior Secretary was asking for items and not necessarily funds or monetary donations, some Filipinos pointed out that the government should be able to offer such provisions since they have the resources.

Last March 2019, the Congress reduced the calamity fund of the administration for that year by P11 billion.

A calamity fund is a lump sum covering the aid, relief and rehabilitation services of a government to communities affected by man-made and natural calamities.

It is also used for repairing and reconstructing permanent structures, including capital expenditures for pre-disaster operations, rehabilitation efforts and other activities.

The government agencies involved are the Office of the President, Office of the Civil Defense, the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council, and the Department of Budget and Management.