Description of Event: The knowledge-sharing activity was organized jointly by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Mr. Sonny Domingo, PIDS supervising research specialist, presented the results of his study on the effectiveness of the Quick Response Fund (QRF) and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) resources on 02 July 2014. The study was commissioned by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to determine whether government programs are worth pursuing, need additional funding, or require policy adjustments – in line with the zero-based budgeting reform initiatives of the DBM.
Seminar participants include district representatives and their staff, technical personnel from the House of Representatives and the Senate, representatives from concerned agencies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Commission on Audit (COA).
Highlights: The Philippines is highly susceptible to calamities being situated in the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific. An average of 19 typhoons visit the country every year. Moreover, it lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire – with 25 active volcanoes, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes due to tectonic movements are not remote. In worldwide rating, the Philippines ranks as the 3rd most disaster-prone country (World Disaster Report 2012), and the 2nd most affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (Germanwatch 2014). Thus, the need for standby fund and relevant assets for immediate response to the damages caused by such disasters.
Policy Framework and Program Implementation. Republic Act No. 10121 (2010) provides the platform for capacity-building among national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) in disaster risk management. It also aims to develop resilience among local communities especially the vulnerable and marginalized groups. For this purpose, the law mandates the development and adoption of a framework for national disaster risk reduction management (NDRRMF), and the institutionalization of a national disaster risk reduction and management plan (NDRRMP).
As observed by Mr. Domingo, the NRRMP is implemented by different agencies whose primary mandates are not disaster response. There are also no dedicated DRRM equipment; implementing agencies rely on their current pool of assets when responding to calamities (e.g. aircraft, bulldozers, schools/classrooms). Corollarily, a national database for DRRM-related assets do not exist.
Quick Response Fund. The QRF is intended as a standby fund for relief and recovery operations to bring back normalcy in the affected communities. Prior 2012, the QRF was treated as a lump-sum fund, the release of which was subject to the President’s approval. Starting 2012, the QRF is incorporated in the budgets of implementing agencies such as DND-OSEC, DND-OCD, DSWD, DPWH, DepEd, and DA. Fund disbursements are governed by DBM Budget Circular Nos. 507, 534 and 543. Among the conditions set for the QRF are as follows: (a) submission of monthly fund programming, (b) available for same-year disaster only, and (c) fund balance expires at year-end. It has been observed that the one-year validity of appropriation policy poses concern because for the past three (3) years, disasters occurred in November and December – during the time when QRF financial reports would have to be completed. In particular, Mr. Domingo pointed out the low fund utilization by the DND-OSEC and OCD for the period 2008-2010. The COA also noted inadequacies in planning and implementation which resulted to funding delays.
Moreover, the QRF does not allow pre-disaster purchases (RA 9184). Although negotiated purchase is allowed, this is limited to emergency procurements. Such policy restrictions not only hinder the optimal use of resources but also reflect on the performance of implementing agencies.
Stringent Requirements result in Inefficiencies. Cong. Pryde Henry Teves related their experience where splitting of transaction was resorted to by the DPWH regional office in order to evade approval by the higher authority in the Central Office. The congressman also asked COA if audit requirements for disaster-related expenses can be made more flexible. The COA representative informed the participants that a memorandum circular which provides guidelines on the use of QRF has already been issued by COA.
Source of Inefficiency. At this point, it may be difficult to trace the cause of low budget utilization – i.e. whether it was a result of stringent regulations or due to policy changes. As discussed earlier, the QRF was treated as a lump-sum, subject to the President’s approval prior 2012 but later subsumed under department budgets.
Presidential Veto. When the FY 2014 GAA was signed, President Aquino vetoed the provision which states that the QRF will be used for post-disaster expenses only. The veto states “that the Quick Response Fund lodged under the budgets of front-line agencies in times of calamities is more effective when utilized as well for the pre-positioning of goods, emergency response units, and other allied support items and equipment in order that the situation and living conditions of people in communities or areas stricken by calamities, epidemics, crises, and catastrophes are normalized as quickly as possible” (GAA 2014, page 1110).
Disaster Response Strategy. Cong. Teves also raised the concept of “twinning” whereby one LGU will be responsible for relief operations in its twin LGU in case disaster strikes. The OCD officer affirmed that twinning is allowed and that funds have already been pooled together. Affected LGUs can draw from this fund an amount commensurate to the damage incurred. An example of pooled fund is the case of Zamboanga City. In 2013, P3.6 billion or 96% of QRF for the year was earmarked for relief and rehabilitation of the city.
Foreign Donations. There was an inquiry on whether foreign aids to the victims of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013 have been accounted for. According to the OCD, donations that pass through DSWD, DFA, DOH and NDRRMC are reported to the DBM. However, there is no mechanism for donations that pass through non-government organizations (NGOs). Prepared by Dr. Flor B. Mamhot
ZBB Study: DRRM and Quick Response Funds by Mr. Sonny N. Domingo, PIDS