The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today clarified the media reports coming from some sectors that there were some P43-Billion unused "calamity fund" in 2013 under former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.
DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said that the issue has been muddled with so many wrong information and accusations obviously targeted at the agency's former Secretary for political reasons.
"First, we do not have a Calamity Fund. Second, what COA reported was P42.9 Million not Billion disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) unutilized fund to help LGUs prepare for disasters and not for recovery; Third, the DILG was able to achieve its target of strengthening local government units (LGUs) to prepare for disasters, especially the most vulnerable communities," said Panadero.
The DILG Undersecretary explained that the Department's implementation of DRRM-related initiatives went full swing only in the second semester of 2013 because it was an election year and it had to wait for the new set of local officials, including those appointed as local DRRM officers, to settle down before providing them with the training programs on disaster preparedness.
He said DILG does not want to waste fund by holding training programs during the campaign period when it was not even clear who will be manning the local institutions on DRRM at the local level. Besides, he said, there is a COMELEC ban in holding gatherings during the election period.
"Ayaw po nating masayang ang pondo ng bayan, dahil lamang gusto nating gastusin ito kahit wala pang malinaw na batayan kung sino ang itatalaga sa mga DRRM local institutions noon," he said.
He said given the situation, it is therefore understandable that the DILG was able to utilize only 44 percent of its P76-M budget on DRRM that year and not 34.5 percent as erroneously reported.
He said this approach in fact, enabled the Department to reach out to the LGUs, deliver what it needs to deliver, without having to use the P22.9-M in 2013, with the amount becoming part of the continuing funds utilized in 2014.
Panadero issued the clarification and lamented that some media reported 42-bilion allegedly unused which was obviously a clear attempt to exaggerate the issue, mislead the public, and put the DILG in a bad light.
"Contrary to some of their claims, the said fund allocation was used the following year as continuing appropriations for FY 2014 with a utilization rate of 99 percent," Panadero explained.
He said the DILG was able to capacitate LGUs situated in the 18 major river basins in 2013 which were the priorities of the national government that year. "Despite the challenges, the DILG was able to strengthen its target local government units (LGUs) to prepare during disasters, especially the most vulnerable communities," he added.
The DILG official also said the agency made use of its existing programs and initiatives such as the orientation of the newly-elected officials and the conduct of the barangay assemblies to instill the mindset of disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation and mitigation advocacies.
The remaining P20-M fund was intended for the provision of incentives like DRR rescue equipment to lower income LGUS that would pass the disaster preparedness criteria in the form of Disaster Preparedness Audit (DPA). Unfortunately, no LGU passed the DPA in 2013 the reason why the amount for that year, made its way as part of the continuing fund for 2014.
Panadero also explained that the 2013 Commission on Audit (COA) report was written two years ago.
"The data used was written two years ago. The array of projects that the DILG has already accomplished will belie the claim or insinuations that it is not serious in fulfilling its mandate of strengthening the capacity of LGUs on disaster preparedness," he said.
On capacity enhancement, the DILG has already conducted orientation on DRMM and CCA to some 1,498 LGUs which include 48 provinces, 47 cities, and 1,034 municipalities; Local Climate Change Action Plan formulation to some 651 LGUs including 20 provinces, 49 cities and 583 municipalities.
Likewise, some 50 LGUs composed of 13 provinces, 14 cities and 23 municipalities have undergone Risk Vulnerability and Hazards Infra Audit under the guidance of the DILG.
The agency has also conducted capability development on GIS mapping/Map Overlay Analysis and Geohazard maps to some 616 LGUs; social preparation and community-based disaster risk reduction management to some 3,130 highly-vulnerable barangays; Integrating DRRM/CCA project development and management cycle to 7,329 barangays, CBDRMM to 3,873 barangays and collaboration workshop for the Major River Basins (MRBs) to 862 local governments.
Furthermore, the DILG was able to disseminate copies of a Pampamilyang Gabay sa Panahon ng Kalamidad (Family Guide to Action on Disaster) and distributed to 24,341 barangays nationwide.
"These would not have been accomplished if there was "lack of coordination and monitoring of project activities among the implementing offices" as what they want the public to believe in," Panadero said.
He said on the P10-Million donation made by the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Inc. for Typhoon Pablo victims in 2013, the entire amount was given to the province of Davao Oriental in two tranches in 2014.
"It took awhile for the province to come up with its final project proposal as it has to carefully design the project in conjunction with other projects it has to implement for Pablo victims to ensure there is no duplication and the right community will benefit," he said.
He said just like the other pro-poor, pro-LGU projects of the DILG, the agency has no discretion or say in the identification of projects that the LGU and the community want to implement in their area.
Amidst the implementation of various DRRM initiatives, he said the DILG likewise focused its attention and resources on the rehabilitation of LGUs badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda through the Recovery Assistance to Yolanda (RAY) project, wherein the DILG assisted in the rehabilitation of vital local infrastructures which are now 97 percent complete following the Build-Back Better Principle.
"The lessons of Yolanda has put in place a sustained DILG campaign on disaster preparedness now covering all LGUs through the Operation Listo, which virtually expands the period of preparedness of LGUs and local officials," Panadero said.
"It was worthy to mention that in the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby, there was a considerable drop in the number of casualties, all because the LGUs and communities themselves have begun to take disaster preparedness seriously. We believe our efforts significantly contributed to this increased awareness and preparedness actions among LGUs," he added.