Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said the government must rationalize the utilization of the National Budget so that it is able to address crises and other issues comprehensively and completely without being sidetracked every time a new crisis arises.
In a media interview on January 7, 2022, Cayetano said the good news is the government has the money to address disasters, pandemics, and the needs of all sectors.
“Hindi problema ang pera. There’s P80 billion with DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), and DOTr (Department of Transportation,” he said.
The problem, he said, is that the government needs to be more organized and more focused in its handling of crises.
Cayetano said this can be seen in how disasters have been handled in the last few years.
“Medyo magaling na tayo sa relief but medyo mabagal talaga tayo sa rehabilitation. In fact ‘pag may nangyaring bagong kalamidad, nakakalimutan na natin y’ung dati,” he said.
(We do well when it comes to disaster relief but we are slow when it comes to rehabilitation. In fact if a new calamity arises, we forget the previous ones.)
Cayetano said this happened when typhoon Yolanda hit the country in November 2013, just a month after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol.
“That happened to Bohol nung malaki ang damage ng lindol before tapos nagka-Yolanda. Buti na lang the Boholanos said unahin nyo ang Yolanda kasi sila maraming namatay, kami damage lang. Pero hindi na nabalikan y’ung iba,” he said.
(There was huge damage in Bohol due to the earthquake, and then Yolanda hit. It was a good thing the Boholanos said the victims of Yolanda should be prioritized because there were many deaths there. But what happened was the government was not able to go back to them anymore,” he said.
“I hope this doesn’t happen to the victims of typhoon Odette,” he added.
Cayetano said this is one reason he and President Duterte made a campaign promise to create a Department of Disaster Resilience.
“Sobra tayong nagpapasalamat sa NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) and of course sa local governments, but really we need an agency sa dami ng bagyo, earthquake, pumuputok na bulkan, and also man-made tulad ng sunog na mga nangyayari. We need a department na walang ibang ginawa kundi relief at rehab,” he said.
(We are thankful to the NDRRMC and of course the local governments, but really we need a single agency because we are hit by may typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and man-made disasters like fires. We need a department that will do nothing but disaster relief and rehabilitation.)
Cayetano said the COVID-19 pandemic also requires a more focused approach from the government, particularly when it comes to providing financial assistance.
“Nagtatrabaho naman talaga ang gobyerno, lalo na y’ung local government, o IATF, pero y’ung mindset kasi parang matatapos na ang pandemic, may bakuna na, may gamot na, eh all the doctors have been telling us, we have to live with COVID, hindi basta mawawala ito,’” Cayetano said.
(The government is working hard, especially local government units [LGUs] and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases [IATF], but the mindset that the pandemic will end, that there are vaccines and medicines for it anyway, cannot justify our current mindset. Doctors have said that we have to live with COVID.)
“We cannot innovate, we cannot adapt kung ang parati nating iniisip ‘matatapos na’ (if our mindset is that the pandemic is about to end),” he added.
Cayetano also said two years into the pandemic, the government is still finding it difficult to make sure affected Filipinos receive aid.
“Ang good news, between DSWD, DOLE, DOTr, at DTI, may P80 billion na ayuda. Ang bad news, napakaliit ng P80 billion,” he said.
(The good news, between the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD], Department of Labor and Employment [DOLE], Department of Transportation [DOTr], and the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] there is P80 billion in financial aid. The bad news is P80 billion is too small an amount.)
“So kung magla-lockdown tayo, mangangapa na naman tayo kung saan tayo kukuha, so napaka-importante na sa bawat galaw natin, we try to predict the unpredictable,” he added.
(If we face lockdown again, we’ll have difficulty finding enough funds again. It’s important that we be prepared and predict the unpredictable.)
Cayetano said providing financial aid directly to all Filipino families is the simpler and more efficient way to distribute financial aid, especially at a time when the Philippines may see more stringent lockdowns in light of the Omicron variant.
He also said the targeted approach will not work because the funds are lodged in different departments and agencies.
“The most simple way is tulad sa Bayanihan 1. Just give it per family, ibigay niyo sa LGU, at lahat bigyan niyo na. So y’ung targeted approach na per department, it really doesn’t work, so I hope ma-speed up talaga para hindi naman mawalan ng pag-asa ang ating mga kababayan,” Cayetano said.
(The most simple way is the one adapted by Bayanihan 1. Just give the aid to every family through the LGUs. The targeted approach in which every department distributes its own aid doesn’t work, so I hope this can be speeded up so that our people do not lose hope.)