by Charissa M. Luci
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto yesterday appealed to the national government to tap the remaining P19-billion calamity fund to assist the thousands of victims of two recent massive fires in Metro Manila.
He said the remaining P19-billion calamity fund could be used to assist the homeless families in fire-razed communities in Metro Manila.
“Funding is not a problem based on the current status of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), which has billions left in it,” Recto said in a statement.
He explained that there is authority to grant assistance since large-scale fire falls under “catastrophes” which, under the special provisions on its use, the NDRRMF can be applied to.
“If the gutted community needs to be relocated, especially if the victims are informal dwellers, the NDRRMF will be a big help in in-city rebuilding, or near-city relocation,” Recto said.
He noted that as of end of August, only P6.9 billion out of the P44 billion gross calamity fund for 2016 had been spent, leaving a balance of P37 billion.
But of this balance, P18.9 billion has been earmarked for the reconstruction of super-typhoon “Yolanda”-hit areas and P1 billion for the 2016 People’s Survival Fund, he said.
“So kung meron pang mga (If there’s a remaining balance of) P19 billion, para sa mga bagong kalamidad (for new calamities), eh di kuhanan natin ito para sa mga lugar na nasunog (then we draw from this to assist areas affected by fire),” he said.
Recto said his proposal only covers “massive conflagrations, in which hundreds of homes are lost, and victims are in the thousands. “Hindi kasama yung isang bahay lang ang nasunog. O kung garahe mo lang ang na-abo. Hindi kasama ‘yan (A single house or garage that is reduced to ashes is not included),” he said.
“Kung ang isang malaking lugar ay nagmistulang mini-Hiroshima, ‘yan dapat nating tulungan (If a large area is turned into a mini-Hiroshima, that should be assisted),” he said.
Last Nov. 13, about 1,400 families were left homeless in the eight-hour blaze which gutted several blocks in Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City, the fifth to hit that densely populated barangay this year.
While in Las Piñas City, homes of 2,000 families in Barangay Talon 2 went up in smoke before dawn last Nov. 3.
“When an entire community is burned to the ground, then it should qualify for national assistance,” Recto explained.
“Mabuti pa bagyo, kadalasan bubong lang ang natatangay. Sa sunog, pati pundasyon, pati septic tank, naaabo (Typhoon victims are more fortunate as most of the time, it’s only their roofs that were blown away. But in fire, even the house foundation, septic tank are reduced to ashes),” Recto said.
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