CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
19 October 2013
The House of Representatives of the Philippines not too recently already approved in plenary the budget for DENR and the Climate Change Commission (CCC), and if one paid close attention to the amount approved for the Climate Change Commission, it’s Php 80milllion.
But nowhere in those items approved is the mandated Php 1 billion pesos for the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), this amount is the set figure provided in the law which created the Fund, Republic Act 10174.
The PSF is designed to be a stand-by bourse, not a pork-barrel mind you, to enable the country, particularly the local government units and local organizations, to support activities on the ground especially on climate change adaptation, those long-term adjustments that communities should be doing now, for example, in their agricultural practices to maintain crop productivity amidst erratic weather patterns; in their infrastructure to anticipate sea-level rise, or to cope with the frequent flooding of low-lying areas; to augment water replenishment sources as most of them have been drying up.
These activities should be distinguished from disaster risk reduction, rehabilitation or management efforts which responds to current or recently experienced impacts. Climate change adaptation takes the longer-term view of what changes will happen and to prepare for them now.
By the way, the law creating the PSF also mandated it to receive funds from the country’s development partners, should they wish to provide support to climate change adaptation-related grants or development assistance to the country.
For example, right after typhoon Pablo hit the country last year, many countries pledged and some delivered on their commitments for support, though the effort to get an update on where are those funds now and how are they being utilized should be the subject of another blog post later, these are the types of funds that can also be lodged in the Peoples’ Survival Fund.
Also, the Php1billion amount provided by law, is, as provided also by law, replenishable, as in, every year, each time the country goes through its budgeting process when its General Appropriations Act (GAA) is deliberated upon and approved, the minimum balance of the Fund is maintained at Php1billion per year, so if, say for year x ,the ending balance of the PSF is Php300 million, for the succeeding year, there will be an allocation in the GAA for Php 700 million so it will maintain that balance of Php1billion.
The Biodiversity, Innovation, Trade and Society (BITS) Policy Center, Inc. has done a preliminary review of the 2014 Expenditure Program submitted by Pnoy few days right after his SONA last July, and it appears that that Php1billion amount cannot be found, not in the line items for Climate Change Commission, and also not in the category of unprogrammed funds which is supposed to carry some special provisions that may include that amount of money in the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Members of the national climate advocacy group Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, and particularly led by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) have been working with some Senators so that some unprogrammed funds in the General Appropriations Bill being deliberated by the Senate Finance Committee will be channeled to the PSF and so far, they have succeeded in corralling the amount of Php500 million for the purpose, they need to find some more unprogrammed items so they will reach the amount of Php1billion.
Meanwhile, the PSF Board, the body set by law to be the governance body for the Fund chaired by the Department of Finance, has not yet been constituted, it appears some sectoral reps have not yet been nominated by their sectors, though for the Philippine civil society sector, they have already done their part some months back, nominating ICSC honcho Red Constantino to be the CSO rep in the Board. The business sector and the academe sectors have not yet nominated their respective reps, reports indicate.
Informed sources though indicate that the culprit may be the lack of approved implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law creating the PSF, which until now, has not yet been signed by Pnoy though it was already drafted and consulted with various agencies and subjected to multistakeholder consultations by the Climate Change Commission led by Vice-Chair Lucille Sering.
Maybe Pnoy thinks when asked about the PSF, he thinks about his own PSF- the President’s Social Fund – which was pointed out before by DZRH’s Joe Taruc as a bigger pork barrel compared to what was then the pork barrel inserted in the 2014 GAA of over Php20billion pesos, before all this brouhaha over Janet Lim-Napoles, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and the Malampaya Fund boiled over.
So, Pnoy, there are two PSFs now, this People’s Survival Fund and your own President’s Social Fund. Perhaps you can put money from your own PSF (President’s Social Fund) to this PSF (Peoples’ Survival Fund?
Or maybe we should start calling it by another name to ease the confusion in the President’s mind?