Rehab plan for Batangas pushed, calamity fund cuts questioned

Jove Moya

SENATE President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, January 27, urged the national government to start drawing up a comprehensive long-term plan for the rehabilitation of Batangas province following the Taal Volcano eruption.

According to Sotto, the short-term strategies provided by the government will only address the immediate needs of the affected residents.

"We have to start pooling our ideas to rehabilitate Batangas. We need permanent solutions to resolve post-disaster concerns and help Batangueños recover," Sotto said in a statement on Monday.

He said the government should be ready to implement rehabilitation programs once Taal Volcano quiets down and experts declare that the threat of a hazardous eruption is 100 percent over.

In a report, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said at least 2,772 hectares of farmland and 1,967 animals have been affected by the volcanic eruption in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region.

Sotto stressed the need to address issues involving provision of temporary and permanent homes to affected families, repair of roads, buildings and other infrastructures; and small and medium enterprise opportunities.

"Let us not forget the hard lessons we have learned from the rehabilitation of Tacloban and Marawi. We did not have ready programs to help those who were affected by these tragedies, to the chagrin of the residents who relied heavily on the government to help them get back on their feet again," Sotto said.

Meanwhile, Senator Leila de Lima questioned the consistent cuts in calamity fund since 2017.

The senator lamented the P4-billion budget cut for this year's calamity fund which she said greatly affects the pre-disaster operations and rehabilitation efforts to communities affected by calamities or disasters.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier reported that the bicameral committee slashed the P4 billion from the calamity fund that the Senate allocated for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) for 2020.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development, said the massive reduction in the government's calamity fund shows the administration's failure to consider and prepare for the country's vulnerability to disaster.

"Now that another catastrophe has come as a result of the eruption of the Taal Volcano and a series of earthquakes is putting thousands of Filipinos at risk, we can't just rely on private sectors and other countries for donation," De Lima said in a separate statement.

The senator called on the Duterte administration to "set its priorities straight and prioritize its people over selfish interests.” (SunStar Philippines)