MANILA, MAY 19, 2007
(BULLETIN) The European Commission has approved a further grant of 710,000 euros (about P46 million) in humanitarian aid to assist the victims of typhoons that devastated the Bicol region during the last four months of 2006.

Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, head of the European Commission to the Philippines in Manila, said "Given the disastrous impact of the four typhoons that hit Bicol last year, recovery has been slower than expected, and much work remains to be done to ensure that those displaced by the typhoons can be given adequate shelter before this year’s typhoon season comes around.’’

Ambassador MacDonald said that this additional contribution of E710,000 is over and above the grant of E2 million (about P130 million) approved last December, adding that this assistance reaffirms the commitment of the European Union to support victims of natural disasters.

The funds will be provided by the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO). The decision was adopted on May 7, 2007, to respond to the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations affected by these typhoons. This additional assistance will allow to improve the living conditions of those people still staying in evacuation/transit centers as they cannot return home to areas which have been declared unsafe. This will include provision of emergency and transitional shelters as well as provision of water supply and sanitary facilities. The project will be implemented on behalf of the Commission by IOM (the International Organization for Migration), and has been prepared in close coordination with the authorities and other local and foreign agencies working in the area.

In the last quarter of 2006, the Philippines, a country situated in one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world, has been hit by four successive typhoons whose cumulative effects have been disastrous in terms of human losses and damage to property. Although most communities are accustomed to facing typhoons, the scale and frequency of last year’s storms have left many people struggling to recover.

NATIONAL GOVERNMENT posts P12-billion surplus in April By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN (BULLETIN)

The National Government had a budget surplus of P12 billion for the month of April because there was under spending in the weeks before the elections last May 14.

The NG basically frontloaded its spending in the first quarter ahead of the rainy season in the second half and before a 45-day ban on project approvals before the elections.

For the first four months to April the NG incurred a deficit of P40 billion, which is lower than the P50-billion shortfall recorded during the same period last year, amid "modest growth in revenues and slight increase in expenditures," Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves told reporters yesterday.

Total revenues for the period increased 12.8 percent to P338.5 billion from P300 billion in 2006 while expenditures grew 8.1 percent to P378.5 billion from P350 billion. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected P218.9 billion while the Bureau of Customs contributed P57.4 billion.

For the month of April revenues amounted to P101.2 billion from P95 billion in 2006. The BIR share in total revenues was P75.8 billion while BoC collected P17.2 billion. In the meantime actual disbursements in April amounted to P89.2 billion.

According to Teves, "we remain hopeful that we will be able to achieve our target of lowering the budget deficit to P63 billion this year and balancing the budget by the end of 2008. We believe that fiscal consolidation is very important for us to achieve fiscal sustainability and economic progress."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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