Increase calamity funds, revive Project NOAH: Pangilinan

WITH successive typhoons ravaging parts of the country, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan pressed for adequate funding for the state disaster agencies and revival of Project NOAH or the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards.

The senator vowed to scrutinize the proposed 2021 general appropriations bill and to push for funding for needs.

“Kailangan nating maging parang boy scout at girl scout. Kailangan nating maging laging handa. With the insufficient budget in critical disaster mitigation and response agencies, we might be caught unguarded anew at the next strike of typhoon and flooding,” Pangilinan said.

“Kung pwedeng iwasan, hindi na kailangan pang may mamatay. No life is worth risking and property worth sacrificing for something that can be mitigated in the first place,” he said.

Pangilinan called out the Department of Budget and Management for slashing the already-measly budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) by over P70 million, which will affect some of its research projects.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) for 2020 was P16 billion.

Per the 2021 NEP and the General Appropriations Bill, the NDRRMF for 2021 was increased to P20 billion.

This budget was further increased to P21 billion by the Senate. However, in the wake of typhoons that battered the country, Sen. Sonny Angara committed that the Senate will further raise the NDRRMF to P27.25 billion for 2021. The P27.25 billion NDRRMF for 2021 is still below the P38 billion allocated for 2016.

The Senate will resume the plenary debates on the Budget on Monday, November 16. With a huge portion of NDRRMF being spent for COVID-19 response, several local government units are seeking help from the national government to replenish the dwindled fund.

Pangilinan said the government should also consider reviving the Project NOAH, which was under the Department of DOST but was defunded in 2017.

The initiative is crucial in providing a comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation program.

Former projects of NOAH prior to its closure included landslide sensors, storm surge inundation mapping project, the flood network, and the hydrometeorological sensors development.

“Konti lang ang kailangan natin para mabawasan nang konti ang epekto ng ganitong mga disaster. We should be able to give respite to our people from calamities. As they rebuild their lives each year, they are pounded by yet another typhoon,” he said.

As three consecutive typhoons battered the country, Pangilinan has bought 865 sacks of rice from the National Food Authority for Albay, Camarines Sur, Isabela, Rizal (San Mateo, Cainta, Taytay), Marikina, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Quirino, and Aurora.