El Niño response fund adjusted, not cut – guv

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr.

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. clarified on Thursday, May 16, that the provincial government’s El Niño response funding was not slashed but merely reallocated to avoid legal consequences, despite an apparent reduction in the final amount.

The initial text of Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDDRMC) Resolution No. 06 series of 2024 indicated an allocation of P110.78 million. However, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved only P75.58 million on Tuesday, May 14.

An examination by Daily Guardian of the initial and final funding requests revealed that an item in the agricultural interventions was cut in half from P40 million to P20 million.

The P40-million lump-sum item for constructing small water impounding and irrigation projects was changed to pump and engine sets for distribution to affected farmers and fisherfolk, worth P20 million, now specified with 100 pump irrigation projects.

While the governor asserted that there was no slashing of allocations, items listed under environmental responses were reduced to P20 million from the initial P35 million.

The construction of large-scale above- and underground cisterns, originally intended for all 13 provincial government hospitals and the provincial capitol complex worth P20 million, will now cover only 9 of the hospitals at a cost of P15 million.

The establishment of a small-scale water impounding dam and micro-mini hydropower plant, initially valued at P15 million and planned for two facilities in Maasin and Janiuay, will now only cover the former with P5 million.

Veterinary- and health-related interventions, pegged at P3 million and P10 million respectively, as well as other agricultural and environmental items, remained unchanged.

In his regular press conference, Defensor explained that the adjustment in the funding, as part of the provincial declaration of a state of calamity, was based on comments from the Provincial Accounting Office.

“The program that was submitted according to our accounting office, there were items in the [initial] programming which, when you look at it, may not be used with the Quick Response Fund because of its orientation. That’s why it was removed, not slashed, because it was not allowed. We might face technical [malversation charges],” he said.

Defensor also addressed Vice Governor Christine Garin’s concerns during the funding request deliberations, where she highlighted that the proposals focused more on facility projects rather than direct assistance.

The approved allocation includes P10 million in crop insurance assistance for 5,000 affected farmers across the province.

He said their aim with the allocations was to ensure that the response would provide benefits beyond the current situation.

“[The responses] are really water-resources oriented. It’s not like you buy water and you give it to them. These are facilities, this can be infrastructure, this can be equipment that can be given to them. It’s not like we will buy water and distribute, that is not the assistance,” he said.

He also suggested that they might extend greater financial assistance through the provincial government’s PDRRM Trust Fund.