IT is the Senate led by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, and not the House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which has been sabotaging President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s Build, Build, Build Program, a House leader charged yesterday.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya, Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, said “line-itemized budgeting by the House will not cripple President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build Program.”
“What may stall the acceleration of the infrastructure spending is the Senate’s unilateral decision to remove P17 billion for the right-of-way funding of BBB projects,” said Andaya.
House Majority Floor Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro said it was only Sotto who refused to sign the constitutional national budget.
“Mula noon hanggang ngayon, si Speaker GMA ang kakampi ng Pangulong Duterte. Sino ba ang humaharang ng budget? Napirmahan na ni Speaker GMA noon pang isang linggo. Pirma na lang ni Tito Sotto ang wala at nagmamatigas s’ya na hindi n’ya ito pipirmahan. Sino ngayon ang humaharang at nilalagay sa alanganin ang bayan?” Castro asked.
Unlike the Senate, Andaya explained that the alleged realignments made by the House of Representatives on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have remained intact within the department.
“With all this talk of alleged realignment by the House of DPWH funds, one thing is clear: the funds were there and were never taken out of the public works’ budget. Every single centavo allocated for infrastructure projects were accounted for, line-by-line for each project per district, in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill,” Andaya stressed.
“On the contrary, the Senate’s removal of P17 billion worth of right-of-way funding will be the greatest stumbling block for the President’s infrastructure master plan. Without the knowledge of and consent from the House of Representatives, the Senate removed P12 billion of these funds from the DPWH and P5 billion from the DOTr (Department of Transportation). How can projects be started without these right-of way-payments? Billions of pesos worth of roads will never begin construction even if these projects are fully-funded,” Andaya pointed out.
“What’s worse, the Senate has yet to inform the House where they realigned the right-of-way funds which were taken out of the National Expenditure Program. Saan ba talaga napunta ang mga pondong ito? Up to this very moment, the senators are also silent on who are the individual proponents for their realignments. These realignments were made after both chambers ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the 2019 national budget. I urge the senators to speak up on this issue. The taxpaying public deserves to know where their money will be spent,” Andaya said.