Senate’s P50-B budget cut for DPWH alarms House
The House of Representatives and the Senate may have forgone a holiday to start reconciling their versions of the P3.767-trillion budget for 2018—but the P50.7-billion budget cut for public works projects had turned out to be thorny and hinted the spending plan’s finalization would be anything but quick.
Contingents of the two chambers only met in a closed-door executive session for a few minutes on Thursday, before deciding to split into two groups to thresh out each difference. Representatives and senators would meet again on Monday.
This early on, House appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles told reporters he was alarmed by the Senate’s reduction of P50.7 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget.
The budget cut was sought by Senator Panfilo Lacson, who found the allocation for projects with unresolved right-of-way issues to be “bloated” and prone to “insertions” by legislators.
“We were somewhat surprised because the movements were that big, and right now, I’m trying to temper my statements because I’ve not seen the items, the particulars,” Nograles said. “But, based on the summary, the deductions made were alarming.”
He added that he “could not understand” Lacson’s concern about pet projects by congressmen, saying this could not be the case since they were “the projects of DPWH, period.”
Nograles hinted the Senate’s version of the General Appropriations Act was “not supportive” of President Duterte’s infrastructure push dubbed “Build, Build, Build.”
At the same time, he admitted that congressmen have complained their districts would be affected by the budget cut—a concern shared by Senator Cynthia Villar, the mother of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
“Who knew even we would get cut? I read it right away. I saw there’s [a budget cut] for Las Piñas. I can’t imagine we would get cut, eh, [it’s a] very worthy project,” Villar told reporters.
She said there was just a “misunderstanding” between DPWH and Lacson regarding the right-of-way issues and alleged “John Doe claimants.”
“It should be clarified who has the problem here,” she said.
Lacson, in a separate interview with reporters, continued to question why the construction of projects should be funded before their unresolved right-of-way issues are settled.
“If you have not settled the street’s path, how can you build the street?” Lacson said, adding that projects that could not be implemented while tied up in such legal issues account for a significant portion of budget underspending.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.