By Melissa Luz T. Lopez
Senior Reporter

THE EXECUTIVE will be asking Congress to pass a supplemental budget once it finalizes rehabilitation plans for Marawi City, the country’s Finance chief said, noting that the billions of pesos of additional spending would not severely affect the country’s fiscal position.

Bullet-riddled houses are seen in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on August 28, 2017. – AFP

“We will be able to handle it…but we need the budget allocation for that because obviously, that is an extraordinary expense. So we have to go to Congress and ask them for a supplemental budget,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters last Thursday, Aug. 31.

However, he pointed out that the fiscal programs will “remain steady” despite the unplanned additional spending to rebuild Marawi.

Mr. Dominguez said the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council has already discussed the plan to ask Congress for the additional budget during their meeting last week, but that the Cabinet would have to come up with an exact amount of how much would be needed for the rebuilding efforts.

So far, the military has been able to replenish supplies by itself even as the fighting with Maute terrorists has stretched past 100 days since May 23 when it began. However, the Armed Forces would need about 20,000 new soldiers to bolster its ranks, Mr. Dominguez said.

The fighting in Marawi has left 133 soldiers, 65 civilians, and 614 rebels killed as of Aug. 28, according to Malacañang. Thousands of residents have also fled to other cities and are living amid poor conditions in evacuation centers.

The Cabinet official added that they expect $3 million worth of construction equipment to enter nearby Iligan City by October, representing donations from China.

“The plan really is to bulldoze the area that was affected because the buildings there most likely are already compromised. We don’t want people building over that and not knowing if the reinforcing bars are still strong. We might as well just rebuild everything,” Mr. Dominguez added, although noting that residents and evacuees would be consulted first.

“The task force needs to come up with a rehabilitation plan.”

Earlier, Mr. Dominguez said the government plans to use the tax settlement from cigarette firm Mighty Corp. on Marawi’s rehabilitation.

Last week, the Philippine Competition Commission approved Japan Tobacco International’s planned acquisition of Mighty worth P46.8 billion, of which P25 billion will be paid to the Philippine government as Mighty opted to settle its tax liabilities after the Bureau of Customs discovered tax evasion and fake documentary stamps on its products.

An additional P5 billion in taxes will be collected from the buyout deal, Mr. Dominguez said.

In July, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said the government is looking to release at least P15 billion over the next two years to restore the warn-torn city in Mindanao, which will come from disaster reduction funds already earmarked under the 2017 budget.