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Poe urges quick release of calamity funds to Ompong-hit areas: Magugutom tayo kakahintay!

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Calamity funds must be released immediately to two typhoon-damaged regions considered to be the country’s “cereal bowl” and “salad bowl.”

Senator Grace Poe made the appeal on Saturday to Malacanang referring to Cagayan Valley Region and Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR).

She said that Cagayan Valley is considered the country’s “cereal bowl” as it ranked first in corn production and second in palay, thus, it “feeds the nation.”

“Hindi lang cereal bowl ang tinamaan ni Ompong, pati ‘yung salad bowl natin nahagip din,” Poe said, referring to the CAR which is the principal supplier of vegetables to Metro Manila.

“Kaya ‘yang si Ompong, para talaga tayong sinuntok sa sikmura,” she said referring to the typhoon which has been recorded as the strongest so far that hit the country in 2018.

Poe said ensuring that the region will be able to replant, rebuild and restore its farm output and facilities must be treated as a “national food security priority.”

“One-fourth of the corn we produce, and one-seventh of the national palay we harvest come from the Cagayan Valley,” she said.

“If Cagayan, Ilocos and Cordillera do not plant, the nation goes hungry,” the senator stressed.

Poe said a portion of P19.6 billion calamity fund, officially called the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund in the 2018 national budget, should also be released immediately to Ilocos region which was also pummelled by Ompong.

“If you combine the agricultural area of the three regions which is about 835,012 hectares, then you are talking about a substantial area critical to our food supply, and which gives livelihood to millions of farmers,” Poe said.

She added that a rehabilitation of the farms, including farm infrastructure like roads and irrigation, in the three Northern Luzon regions is needed as it comes at a time when prices of food are rising “and we don’t want this calamity to further worsen the situation.”

In addition to the P19.6 billion NDRRMC fund, government should also tap some P7.6 billion disaster Quick Response Fund (QRF) which are distributed to 10 agencies.

These funds are already “parked with the agencies, and some should have been predeployed to regions,” Poe said.

“Para masiguro na ang tulong ay kasing bilis ng bagyo, dapat magkaroon ng one-stop shop processing and approval center sa Cagayan Valley mismo for all calamity fund requests, para ‘di na kailangang lumuwas ang mga LGU (local government unit), na busy sa relief operations, sa Manila,” she said.

“’Yung DA (Department of Agriculture) merong P1 billion in QRF, ‘yung NIA (National Irrigation Authority) merong P500 million. Ito ‘yung puwede sa replanting assistance and repair of irrigation,” she said.

Poe added, “‘Yung DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) merong P1 billion. Dito naman puwedeng kunin ‘yung para sa mga tulay at daan na nasira. ‘Yung sa schools naman, kunin sa P2 billion QRF ng DepEd (Department of Education).”

Other QRF recipients are Department of Social Welfare and Development (P1.25 billion), Depatment of
National Defense-Office of Civil Defense (P500 million), DND-Armed Forces of the Philippines (P750 million), Department of Health (P500 million) and Natiinal Electrification Administration (P100 million).