In a sudden change of tone, Vice-Governor René Relampagos apologized to Provincial Council (PB) member Victor Balite after he appeared to have ‘downplayed’ the latter’s request for transparency on how the disaster fund of the province of 147 million pesos for 2021 has been spent.
“I did not minimize your request. I’m really sorry that you felt belittled, but that was definitely not my intention,” Relampagos said during the regular PB session on Tuesday.
“I am also sorry that you were insulted but never with my intention of wanting to insult you,” he added.
During the PB session two weeks ago, Relampagos dismissed Balite’s question about how the fund was spent saying the lawmaker should address his question to Governor Art Yap and have a ‘heart to heart’ conversation. with the general manager.
Balite particularly questioned the lack of detail on how much of the fund was spent on the COVID-19 response and post-typhoon relief efforts.
Before Relampagos changed its position, Balite said it was set to gather detailed information on the province’s spending from relevant agencies.
Last year, the same calamity fund also raised questions from various sectors after Yap announced that it could no longer provide rice and other food aid to victims of Typhoon “Odette” after the depletion of his provident fund.
Yap warned that if no financial aid was given by the national government, military and police troops might be needed to be deployed to prevent looting due to growing hunger.
After weeks of public outcry and Balite’s persistent calls for transparency, Relampagos has announced how the fund is being spent.
In his speech at the last PB session, Relampagos said that Bohol has 103.2 million or 70% of the total disaster fund allocated for disaster risk reduction and management (DDRM).
Meanwhile, 44.2 million pesos, or 30% of the fund, has been allocated to the province’s rapid response fund.
The distribution of 70 to 30% in the allocation of the calamity fund is imposed by law.
Of the entire budget of 147 million pesos, 128.15 million pesos have either been paid or forced to pay.
Meanwhile, some 11.4 million pesos of the total disaster fund has yet to be allocated for supplies. Of this figure, items and services that amount to P5.39 million have already been requisitioned for purchase, Relampagos said.
“It means that these have not been obligated or paid, but they are already with the existing purchase demand,” said Relampagos.
Relampagos revealed that most of the 147 million peso budget, or 105 million pesos, was spent on food aid.
“Of this amount, the 70% spent on disaster preparedness would be 60,956,605 pesos, while the 30% charged to the rapid response fund represents a total amount of 44,170,292 pesos,” Relampagos said.
A total of 77.98 million pesos from the 105 million peso food aid fund has been spent on rice and food parcels as part of the government’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
Meanwhile, 17.9 million from the same budget was intended for food aid to the victims of typhoon “Odette”.
Another 9.2 million pesos was also purchased of rice “under contract”, but Relampagos did not specify who received the aid.
For training related to disaster preparedness, the province spent 1.84 million pesos. The amount covered food and accommodation for trainings and meetings.
A total of P1.7 million was spent on medicines for TaRSIER 117, the province’s emergency response team.
The province has also allocated 4.92 million pesos for dental, medical and laboratory supplies.
For a single meeting of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) held on July 14, 2021, the province spent 52,000 pesos.
The amount spent on maintenance and other operating expenses was set at 975,580 pesos.
For communications equipment and motor vehicles, the province spent P569,264 and P12.96 million respectively.
The province also spent 2.4 million pesos on another batch of communications equipment.
For disaster response and rescue equipment, the province has allocated 2.99 million pesos.
Check the veracity
Balite, who was present at the session, said in an interview that he would continue to check with relevant provincial government offices to verify Relampagos’ breakdown of the use of the disaster fund.
“Mo pada gihapon ko og suwat sa relevant agencies, wala pa ni mahuman. Padayon gihapon na,” Balite said.
Balite hoped that the offices that spent the calamity fund would provide him with the breakdown of their expenditures and that it would match what Relampagos was reporting.
The legislator nevertheless thanked Relampagos for its report but also requested a printed and certified copy of the vice-governor’s report. (with an rt report)