THE Senate reduced the budget for the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build project and other priority programs by more than P82 billion.
This was disclosed by House appropriations committee chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. who said it is the Senate and not the House of Representatives that slashed the infrastructure budget.
“We wish to put on record that the House of Representatives never made a move to reduce the 2019 budget for infrastructure projects as appropriated in the National Expenditure Program (NEP),” Andaya said.
“In fact, the House introduced amendments increasing the budget for infrastructure projects without breaching the total amount pegged by the NEP,” he added.
The items taken out of the 2019 GAB by the Senate included, but were not limited to, the following:
* Department of Transportation - P5 billion for right-of-way projects;
* Department of Public Works and Highways - P11.033 billion for right-of-way projects;
* Foreign Assisted Projects under DPWH - P2.5 billion;
* Tehnical Education and Skills Development Authority - P3 billion for scholarship of rebel returnees, out-of-school youths and rehabilitating drug dependents enrolled under the Universal Access to Tertiary Education.
* Department of Environment and Natural Resources - P2.254 billion for National Greening Program, which resulted in 50 percent budget cut for all PENROs except Antique.
* Department of Foreign Affairs - P7.5 billion budget for SEA Games taken out, but P5 billion transferred to Philippine Sports Commission and P2.5 billion nowhere to be found.
* Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund - P13.4 billion.
* Pension and Gratuity Fund - P39 billion.
According to Andaya, Depriving the government of funds for right-of-way and other infrastructure projects will surely hamper the implementation of the President’s Build, Build, Build Program.
Construction of priority projects including mass transit and railway systems will be mostly affected.
On the budget cut on education, Andaya said, at least 320,000 students enrolled under the program will lose their scholarship this year.
The House will respect the veto power of the President, but will also urge him to 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,” Andaya said.
The 2019 General Appropriations Bill has been transmitted for signature of President Duterte.
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 said.
“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,” he added.
On the Gratuity Fund, to be affected are the pension of AFP retirees; war or military veterans of the DND; retired uniformed personnel of the DILG, PC-INP, NAMRIA and Philippine Coast Guard; and other retirees of the national government; retirement benefits for optional retirees of the national government; retired personnel of GOCCs which are financially unable to pay said benefits; and personnel devolved to LGUs;
Andaya stressed 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,” he said. (JESTER)