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The ‘real face of DAP’

In his statement at the Supreme Court during the recent hearing determining the constitutionality of the DAP or Disbursement Acceleration Program, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza made mention of the DREAM Project.

“Dream” stands for Disaster Risk Exposure and Assessment for Mitigation, which, said Jardeleza, is part of a “larger initiative” of the Department of Science and Technology called Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH.

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Aside from indicating a penchant for creating “sound byte” ready acronyms, what the DREAM Project achieved, said the Sol-Gen, was to create “reliable, detailed, up-to-date flood models of the country’s 18 major river basins and watersheds.” These are, he added, “a crucial component of the country’s early warning system against floods.”

Approved by P-Noy in April 2011, the project gained even more urgency with the flooding brought on by Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” in September and October 2011, and then Tropical Storm “Sendong” in December of the same year. Subsequent floods and typhoons, the most recent ones of which were the horrible “storm surge” of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” late last year, and the floods that inundated parts of Mindanao early this year, all the more point out the importance and urgency of learning as much as we can—and sharing this knowledge with local government and ordinary folk—about ways to predict and mitigate the damage from rains, storms, floods and aftereffects.

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What does the DREAM Project have to do with the DAP?

As Jardeleza argued, the original appropriation for the project was deemed deficient and “thereby required augmentation through the DAP.”

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THUS, the availing of the DAP, the project allocation—an original and deficient P537 million—was augmented by an additional P1.6 billion.

The DOST, which was the recipient of the additional funds assigned specifically to DREAM, was authorized to receive the additional appropriation under the 2011 budget because it was assigned the task of “[generating] new knowledge and technologies and research capability building in priority areas identified as strategic to national development.”

The project, said Jardeleza, enabled the government to “generate knowledge crucial to disaster management and mitigation. It saves lives and properties. With judicious use of savings, the President has made DREAM a reality.”

And as subsequent events showed—including the “visits” of weather disturbances that were not only more frequent but also of fiercer and more damaging strength—the full and expanded implementation of DREAM could not have waited for the usual complicated and slow budgetary process.

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The sad news, however, is that more accurate and timely weather prediction is just one part of disaster risk mitigation. Local governments may be fully informed about the pending arrival of a typhoon, as shown by the experience of Tacloban City, for instance, but mitigation demands as well rapid and rational ground-level preparation and response, community organization, and flexibility.

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STILL, as Jardeleza argued at the Supreme Court, and as Budget Secretary Butch Abad showed, “the circumstances that justified the creation of the DAP no longer obtain.”

The “systemic issues” that slowed down public spending in the early years of the Aquino administration, the Sol-Gen argued, have been resolved, so that “line agencies now have normal levels of budget utilization.”

He added that the DAP had lapsed into complete disuse by the second half of last year, and by this year, “the President no longer has any use for DAP.” Thus, he argued, the cases lodged against the use of the DAP should be considered moot, with only prior disbursements still in question.

But Jardeleza urged the high court to be “cautious in limiting the constitutional authority of the President and the legislature to respond to the dynamic needs of the country and the evolving demands of governance, lest we end up straight-jacketing our elected representatives in ways not consistent with our constitutional structure and democratic principles.”

These are some of the accomplishments achieved by using the savings of the government for urgent and timely uses, what Jardeleza described as “the real face of DAP.” Among them: saving lives by improving disaster preparedness through the use of Doppler radars in weather forecasting, and 3D maps of Project Noah under DREAM flood forecasting; 93,500 public school teachers reaping benefits from the Government Service Insurance System because their premiums were finally paid through the DAP; 2,245 sitios energized with electricity; 39,796 classrooms built, with contracts for 4,370 more awarded.

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IT WAS indeed tragic that, after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada “exposed” the existence of the DAP in a privilege speech, public perception chose to focus on the “bribery” angle offered by the senator.

DAP funds, some uses of which were coursed through some legislators, said Estrada in a speech in defense of his role in the pork-barrel scam but which he did not directly address, were meant as “bribes” for senators to vote in favor of convicting the impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Lost in the subsequent hullabaloo were the other uses for the DAP which were not just legitimate but urgent as well. Indeed, it is unfair to equate the DAP with the pork barrel scandal. One involves the use of government savings to accelerate projects and meet urgent needs. The other involves the unlawful and deceitful channeling of public money to private pockets through the use of conspiring legislators and officials. Two very different creatures.

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TAGS: dap, Department of Science and Technology, Disaster Risk Exposure and Assessment for Mitigation, Disbursement Acceleration Program, DREAM Project, Francis Jardeleza, Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, project noah, Supreme Court
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