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Election ban blamed for late release of Guimaras rehab funds

June 8, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, June 7, 2007

Ten months after a massive oil spill struck Guimaras Island, less than a third of the government funds to rehabilitate the affected areas and communities have been released.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela, head of the regional Task Force Solar I Oil Spill, said the release of the bulk of the P863 million fund has been delayed because it was affected by the ban on public spending during the election period.

Coscolluela said in a press conference that only P199.5 million released or 30 percent of the fund has been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

He said the release of the bulk of the fund was “held in abeyance” because of the election period. The fund is part of the supplemental budget approved by Congress last year to finance rehabilitation programs and livelihood projects for affected residents and areas in Guimaras.

The release include P61.5 million for the Department of Agriculture (DA), P1 million for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), P5 milllion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P40 million for Guimaras local government units, P60 million for the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) and P32 million for other agencies.

The release of the remaining P663.5 million needs the endorsement of the National Disaster Coordinating Council to the Office of the President which will direct the DBM to release the fund.

But Coscolluela said with the election over, there is no legal impediment for the release of the remaining fund.

The DBM is expected to release the first half of the fund after the directive has been issued by Malacañang. The second half will be released after the agencies have liquidated the first disbursement.

Coscolluela stressed that the fund must be utilized before the end of year or they will be reverted to national treasury.

He said that with the implementation of the rehabilitation program the oil spill incident is “coming to a close.”

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