Photo courtesy of Ezra Acayan

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) earlier called out a total evacuation of the Taal volcano island and high-risk areas as identified in the hazard maps within the 14-kilometer radius from the Taal Main Crater and along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed. Around 300,000 people are expected to be displaced by a possible bigger hazardous eruption of the volcano.

Cavite is the second province to declare a state of calamity after Batangas. As of Wednesday noon, 43,681 people are taking shelter in 217 evacuation centers in Batangas and Cavite, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año earned criticism from netizens after calling out the public to give donations for the victims due to the Taal volcano's unrest since Sunday, January 12.

The Filipino people got puzzled. What happened to the NDRRMC Fund or Calamity Fund?

In 2019, Congress proposed a P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, extending for the use of national disaster risk reduction and management fund or calamity fund. But the Senate-House of Representatives conference committe that drafted the final version of the budget reduced the calamity fund for 2020 by P4 billion to only P16 billion.

The P4-billion cut in the calamity fund went to a pool of reductions in agency appropriations and lump sums that funded the whopping P527 billion in realignments made by lawmakers.

The NDRRMC budget was cut by more than half (P23 billion) to just P15.8 billion in 2017 from P38.9 billion in 2016 under the Aquino administration.

While answers are nowhere to be found from this unscrupulous budget, the Philippine National Police (PNP) asked its 190,000 cops to donate at least P10 each to victims of Taal Volcano.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte’s budget for 2020 is P8.2 billion, a 21% higher than the P6.77 billion written on the General Appropriations Act and most of it would be allocated for his supposed confidential and intelligence funds amounting to P4.5 billion.

A calamity fund is a lump sum covering the aid, relief and rehabilitation services of a government to communities affected by man-made and natural calamities.

According to IBON Foundation's report, the Duterte administration’s budget priorities disregard the country’s longstanding vulnerability to disasters.

"The Philippines is ranked ninth among all countries with the highest disaster risk in the World Risk Report 2019. It is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. An average of twenty tropical cyclones also enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility per year, with 8 or 9 making landfall. Meanwhile, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) reports that 74% of the country’s population is vulnerable to natural disasters."

“The Duterte administration should release more funds not just for disaster response but for recovery and rehabilitation. These can come from lump-sum funds. In the long-term, government can invest in building genuinely sustainable communities,” said the group.

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