Andaya hits senate for sabotage

THE chairman of the House committee on appropriations yesterday accused the Senate of sabotaging the programs of President Rodrigo Duterte, especially the Build, Build, Build Program as well as the pension for military retirees and other personnel after it allegedly cut down unilaterally some P83 billion from the 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget.

“It is the Senate that may find itself liable to accusation of  sabotage when it decided, unilaterally, to cut down the allocation for  the President’s Build, Build, Build Program and other priority  projects. We are confident that the Office of the President would consider these items in their review and find ways on how to restore  them in the President’s veto message,” said Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya, Jr., the panel chairman.

Andaya said “the House of Representatives never made a move to reduce  the 2019 budget for infrastructure projects as appropriated in the  National Expenditure Program (NEP).”

“In fact, the House introduced amendments increasing the budget for  infrastructure projects without breaching the total amount pegged by  the National Expenditure Program. This would allow the Executive Department to spur economic growth through increased public  expenditure. We made sure however that such amendments will pass the  test not only of constitutionality and legality, but also of  transparency and accountability,” Andaya explained.

He said the items taken out of the 2019 national budget by the Senate  include, but not limited to, the following: Department of  Transportation (DOTr) - P5-billion for right-of-way projects;  Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) - P11.033-billion for  right-of-way projects; Foreign Assisted Projects (FAP) under DPWH, P2.5 billion; and others.

“Depriving the government with funds for right-of-way and other  infrastructure projects will surely hamper the implementation of the President’s Build, Build, Build Program. Construction on priority  projects including mass transit and railway systems will be mostly  affected,” said Andaya.

Andaya also said that the Senate allegedly took away the budget of the  Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) -P3-billion for scholarship of rebel returnees, out-of-school youths  and rehabilitating drug dependents enrolled under the Universal Access  to Tertiary Education. As a result, at least 320,000 students enrolled  under the program will lose their scholarship this year; Department of  Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - P2.254 billion for National Greening Program, which resulted in 50 percent budget cut for all  PENROs except Antique; Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) - P7.5 billion budget for South East Asian (SEA) Games taken out, but P5 billion transferred to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and P2.5  billion nowhere to be found; Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) - P13.4-billion.

Andaya explained that the MPBF is one of three sources of money paid  to government personnel, adding that the other two are the budgets  lodged under each agency and the Pension and Gratuity Fund.Under Special Provision No. 1, Andaya said the MPBF may be used for  “deficiencies in authorized salaries, bonuses, allowances, associated  premiums and other similar personnel benefits of national government  personnel….”

He said the Senate also allegedly removed the Pension and Gratuity  Fund in the amount of P39-billion, which covers the payment for the  following: Pension of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) retirees;  war or military veterans of the Department of National Defense (DND); retired uniformed personnel of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), PC-INP, NAMRIA and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG); and other retirees of the National Government.

“Retirement benefits for optional retirees of the National Government;  retired personnel of GOCCs (government-owned and controlled  corporations) which are financially unable to pay said benefits; and  personnel devolved to LGUs. Separation benefits or incentives of  affected personnel pursuant to the implementation of: (i)  restructuring of agencies affected by the integration and automation  of the Budget Treasury and Management System and the  operationalization of the Treasury Single Account; and (ii)  rightsizing, merger, streamlining, abolition or privatization,” said  Andaya. “Monetization of leave credits of National Government  personnel and transferred leave credits of those devolved to the LGUs  (local government units).”

“We wish to emphasize that the details of these budget cuts were not  fully discussed in the bicameral conference committee. The senators  unilaterally decided on the budget cuts and realigned them to other  items based on request of individual proponents. Up to now, the Senate  has yet to make public a detailed report on the proponents who  recommended the individual realignments,” said Andaya.

Andaya said the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) has been  transmitted for signature of President Duterte, and we expect it to be  signed after the Office of the President has wrapped up its review of  the veto message.

“We respect the veto power of the President, and we are convinced that  he will exercise such authority for the benefit of the nation and of  our people. Nevertheless, we wish to clarify allegations from the  Senate that the amendments introduced by the House of Representatives  in the bicameral conference committee meetings were meant to  debilitate the Executive Department in implementing the President’s  priority programs and projects,” said Andaya.