Malacañang has been urged to rush a “humanitarian army” to Marawi City and to nearby places where the “spillover of a massive wave of evacuees” are straining local resources to grant them comfort and aid, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
Recto said there are billions of pesos in unspent Calamity Fund waiting to be tapped to bring relief to displaced civilians and rehabilitate areas and commerce destroyed by fighting between government troops and terrorists.
In fact, some of the “calamity funds” are supposed to have been released in the beginning of the year to the 5 agencies tagged under the 2017 national budget as recipients of “Quick Response Fund” (QRF).
The latter, the legislator said, serves as a standby emergency fund which a recipient agency can immediately use to respond to a natural or manmade calamity.
The P6 billion QRF is separate from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Fund, the Calamity Fund’s official name, which has been appropriated P15.755 billion this year.
The amount is augmented by the unspent and unreleased portion of last year’s P38.895 billion appropriations for the NDRRMF.
The lawmaker said that the government should step up the release of these funds in order to cushion the harm inflicted by one of the gravest manmade disasters in years on hapless civilians.
If the pursuit of terrorists is being done round the clock, the assistance to those caught in the crossfire must be on 24/7 basis too, the senator said.
“There is a war being waged on two fronts. The military one and the humanitarian one. If we are airlifting troops to the frontlines, we must transport help to the civilians in the rear,” he said.
Recto also urged Malacañang to identify this early a “rehabilitation point person” for Marawi City.
There must already be some planning at this stage and maybe some preparatory activities so that when the smoke has cleared, the development people must be ready to move in, the legislator said.
The lawmaker explained that part of this year’s P15.755 billion Calamity Fund is “for food assistance, cash-for-work projects, emergency employment, farm aid, housing” for affected families and communities.
The senator said red tape and the submission of voluminous documents must not hamper the flow of aid.
He has warned that “complicated rules and cumbersome requirements” governing the request, release and use of national calamity funds, if not changed, will lead to the trickle down of aid.
There must be no repeat of Yolanda-type flow of assistance, Recto said, referring to the slow pace of rebuilding in places hit by the 2013 massive typhoon.
“We must turbocharge the release of aid money, ” Recto said.
“Hindi pwede na ang Marawi ay hinostage na nga ni Hapilon, mahohostage pa ulit ng red tape,” Recto said.