Thursday, October 30, 2014
MANILA-The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will disburse P17.5 billion worth of grants to civil society and local governments next year and a senator wants part of this earmarked for food production and processing projects that will benefit malnourished children.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto described the P17.5 billion proposed allocation for the “Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services-National Community-Driven Development Project” or “KC-NCDDP” as “one of the biggest unitemized lump-sum items” in the 2015 national budget.
It is also one of the budget items which will post the biggest increase – from P498 million this year to P17.5 billion next year.
The program intends to fund 6,735 grassroots projects next year at an average project cost of P2.6 million.
While government agencies will be the conduit of funds, the implementation will be handled by a “community entity”, Recto said.
This prompted Recto to urge DSWD officials to ensure that the bidding out of projects fully comply with government procurement laws and that projects be subject to audit by the Commission on Audit (COA).
A COA representative told a Senate finance subcommittee chaired by Recto that “historically, COA has only been able to audit 10 percent of KALAHI projects.”
Despite these “curable issues,” Recto said the KC-NCDDP can be used to boost food inventory in the community.
“The budget for that program next year is big. It is almost thrice that of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and 43 times the money that will be given to the Philippine Carabao Center next year,” Recto said.
“If some of the recipients are SMEs, then the budget of the KC-NCDDP is four times the appropriations of the department in-charge of SMEs, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), for 2015,” Recto said.
“Kung ganoon kalaki ang pondo ng KC-NCDDP, siguro naman makakahanap sila ng mga proyektong magpapalakas ng huli ng isda o pwedeng magbigay ng gatas ng kalabaw sa mga bata,” Recto said.
“The idea is to attach a food security peg to this P17.5 billion mega fund,” Recto said.
“If hunger and food scarcity are two of the biggest issues in the grassroots, then this fund should be able to address these,” he said.
Recto said KC-NCDDP should be able to fund food security projects like irrigation and farm roads “in places whose residents have identified these as the kind they need.”
The KC-NCDDP is a P43.9 billion five year project financed by loans from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
“Kung 25 years from now binabayaran pa rin ito ng ating mga apo, dapat lang siguraduhin natin na mapunta ito sa mga proyektong magbibigay ginhawa sa buhay,” Recto said, referring to the 2022 to 2045 repayment schedule of the loan.
“There may be loan conditionalities. But we should insist that it should serve our interest. And we can begin by using this as a tool to fight hunger,” Recto said.
MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today called for the inclusion of every citizen, including persons with disabilities (PWDs) and older persons, in the country’s disaster risk reduction and management programs.
Speaking at the Symposium for the International Day for Disaster Reduction and ASEAN Day for Disaster Management, which was organized by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Legarda stressed that “building resilience should be everybody’s attitude,” hence, even the PWDs and the elderly should be involved in disaster resilience efforts as their special needs are being addressed as well.
“We have the laws in place and the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into our development processes is now a national policy. Yet much remains to be done to realize the benefits these laws ought to bring, especially to the poor and the vulnerable who are most in need of help and protection against disasters and most deserving of participation in resilience building,” Legarda said.
In the past years, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has been highlighting the needs and strengths of various members of society. In 2013, the focus was on PWDs. For 2014, the vulnerability and strengths of the elderly were highlighted. Meanwhile, this year’s ASEAN Day for Disaster Management focuses on the importance of the active participation of everyone in ensuring resilience of communities during disasters.
Legarda, the UNISDR Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said that PWDs are disproportionately affected by disasters. A survey by the UNISDR among persons with disabilities revealed that, if a disaster occurs, 80% said they would be unable to evacuate immediately without difficulty, while six percent said they would not be able to evacuate at all.
Meanwhile, older persons, or people aged 60 years and above, also suffer disproportionately from disasters. Seventy five percent (75%) of those killed by Hurricane Katrina in the United States were over 60, but they comprise 15% of the population in New Orleans. During the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, 56% of those who died were 65 years old and above, but they comprise only 23% of the population.
“Our PWDs are twice more likely to lose their lives or be injured than any other person, but their disability does not mean inability. Actually, they can and should be active partners in making communities safer and more resilient,” said Legarda.
“Meanwhile, the elderly can also make positive contributions to disaster risk reduction and management. We must tap their knowledge and experience. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that we seek the help of older people in providing vital information on local risks to health since they are familiar with local history, geography and culture. They can also be sought for advice on response and recovery efforts, owing to their experience and wisdom,” she added.
“Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude. With this kind of mindset, we can promote the scaling up of existing government programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor and vulnerable citizens in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty,” Legarda concluded.
MANILA-The upcoming holiday will be merrier if gifts and “balikbayan” boxes will make it to their recipients on time for Christmas.
But that does not always happen, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said, citing numerous cases of delayed and inefficient delivery of packages during the holiday season, caused by existing limitations in the customs procedure and structure.
To address this, the Senate leader said that Congress must act on the proposed Customs and Tariff Modernization Act which seeks “to institute electronic processing of import and export, simplify the customs procedure for ordinary citizens, and increase the operating flexibility of the Bureau of Customs.”
According to Drilon, a prominent feature of the proposed measure is to overhaul the BoC's processing of export and import products and goods from its current person-to person format to an automated system. The move, he added, will speed up current custom procedures, limit human interface at customs transaction, and foster transparency and accountability.
"Yearly, many Filipinos with loved ones in other countries deal with the cumbersome process of trying to claim gifts or packages which are stuck at the ports, because the BoC personnel could not immediately attend to the inspection, monitoring, and clearance, thus creating a wave of delays,” said Drilon.
“That will be addressed in the bill. More than creating ease for the business industry, the modernization will benefit millions of ordinary Filipinos who suffer from the inefficiencies in the handling of incoming and outgoing goods,” he underscored.
The Senate leader said that the bill will also help eradicate smuggling and other major criminal activities proliferating in the flow of products entering and leaving the country, noting that in 2013 alone, government losses to smuggling operations have cost an estimated P200 billion in revenues.
In an automated system, Drilon said opportunities for smuggling will be minimized: “By upgrading to electronic processing, not only we are able to make the importation and exportation procedures faster and more effective, we are also reducing human intervention, thus thwarting any chance for anyone to strike illegal deals or transactions.”
Drilon added that the proposed measure seeks to simplify the customs procedure for ordinary citizens, so that the average Filipino will not have to worry about being burdened by overly-bureaucratic procedures. It will also complement government’s efforts to decongest ports.
The bill, currently being heard by the Senate in the committee level, is among a package of economic reform measures the upper chamber is determined to pass at the soonest, in light of the nearing establishment of the ASEAN 2015 Economic Community (AEC).
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