Nov 182013

The Senate on Tuesday began plenary deliberations on the proposed 2014 budget, with two issues in focus: the controversial “pork barrel” fund and the P20-billion rehabilitation fund for victims of recent calamities, including super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Senate finance committee chairman Francis Escudero presented before his colleagues suggested amendments to the P2. 268-trillion spending plan passed by the House of Representatives last October, which included the removal of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) in the budget.

“Obligasyon natin na tugunan ang mithiin ng ating mga kababayan… Amidst all the despair, the least we can do is to rise above pork-tainted political bickering,” Escudero said on the Senate floor. 

On Monday, the Senate decided to let individual senators determine what to do with their P200-million annual discretionary funds. Fourteen senators moved to completely delete their PDAF for next year.

Escudero also formalized the proposal to create a P20-billion rehabilitation fund for victims of recent calamities, including typhoons Labuyo, Santi and Yolanda, as well as earthquake that shook Bohol last month.

The Senate finance chairman said the rehabilitation fund will go “directly to implementing agencies” and will be used to repair irrigation systems, school buildings, roads, bridges and historical sites by recent natural disasters that hit the country. 

In his sponsorship speech for the 2014 proposed budget, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto urged his colleagues to support the P20-billion rehabilitation fund.

“A proposed budget cannot be impervious to disasters When catastrophe strikes, a budget cannot be immune to changes,” Recto said.

As of Tuesday morning, 3,982 individuals have been confirmed dead after Yolanda ripped through the Visayas and parts of southern Luzon over a week ago. Latest government data pegged the total damage caused by Yolanda at P11.7 billion. — RSJ, GMA News

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