Lawmakers come up with way to keep pork

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A new pork barrel scheme being cooked up in the House of Representatives would limit to around P24.6 million the amount of “hard” projects each representative can propose.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chair of the committee on appropriations, admitted that the committee had a “heated discussion” on the new plan. The amount is a 40-percent reduction from their previous pork allotment of P40 million each for infrastructure projects.

Under the proposed mechanism, the old pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will be abolished. The P25.2-billion allocation in next year’s national budget, plus Vice President Jejomar Binay’s own P200-million pork barrel, will be distributed to six government agencies.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will get the biggest share of 35 percent of the allocation, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development would receive 20 percent.

The Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Employment would be allotted 15 percent each, while the Commission on Higher Education would be entitled to 10 percent. The remaining 5 percent would go to the Department of Education.

Minus the P4.8 billion combined PDAF of P200 million each enjoyed by the 24 senators yearly, the remaining pot would be P20.6 billion, said Evardone.

Since 35 percent of the remaining amount would go to the DPWH, he said the 292 House members would have P7.21 billion to dispose of.

This would be because the lion’s share of the allocation would be in the form of “soft” projects to be chosen and implemented by the five government agencies, he explained.

Such projects would include scholarship programs, whose beneficiaries were picked by congressmen in the past.

“If I would have my way, I would just divide it evenly among the 292 congressmen, so the amount would be P24.6 million for hard projects,” he told the Inquirer Friday.

During committee deliberations earlier last week, Evardone said the congressmen agreed to limit their recommendations to “concreting of roads and building multipurpose halls, such as health and evacuation centers.”

Evardone said some congressmen expressed reservations about the plan, arguing that they had “no more roads to concrete.”

“May mga humihirit na mga taga Metro Manila (Those who want to continue concreting roads are from Metro Manila),” he said.

To set an example, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte would limit his recommendation to one, which would be a road on the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, according to Evardone.

“For soft projects, we will be at the mercy of the Cabinet secretaries,” Evardone said.

With the new scheme, he said congressmen would have to submit their respective “recommendations” to the appropriations committee. Approved proposals would then be introduced as committee amendments later in plenary.

Senate move

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Saturday said the upper chamber would “wait until the House firms up its position in the form of amendments introduced in the general appropriations.”

“Until that point, these are just views and positions of the members of the House,” he said in a media forum. “We would like to see how they treat the PDAF as an item in the budget.”

Drilon added: “In fact several Senators have stated the position that we will not avail of the PDAF. That kind of position, I think, we will debate in the Senate.”

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