Loren urges war on waste, even in national budget
Whether it’s in the environment or in the government’s spending plan, Sen. Loren Legarda wants to wage a war on waste.
Speaking at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Thursday, Legarda said her campaign to stop wastage covered both the environment and the national budget.
“I really want to wage a war on waste. And that war on waste does not only include the waste of our precious resources or the waste of physical, material things, but also the waste in our budget. I want an efficient budget that goes directly, fast, efficiently to the people,” she said.
Legarda currently chairs the Senate’s finance committee. She has also made a name for herself as a green advocate.
According to her, she is still pushing for the government to implement the country’s numerous laws meant to protect the country’s natural resources and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.
For these good laws not to remain ink on paper, there should be discipline and political will, she said.
Legarda is also supporting new laws for the environment, such as the one that would regulate the use of single-use plastic items, which tend to generate trash that pollute waterways. She has filed a bill on this.
“Our throwaway culture is what pollutes us and floods us,” the UN Global Champion for Resilience said.
“Let us cast away our throw-away consumerist culture. The whole world is bursting at the seams with overpopulation, including our country. But our resources are finite so we must manage it properly and conserve and protect it,” she added.
The senator also urged the creation of a Department on Disaster Resiliency, saying it must be focused on preparing for and mitigating the effects of natural disasters.
It must not be a “response agency” or emergency management department, which is one intended to address the devastation from calamities, she said. It is supposed to help prevent devastation and damage from calamities.
The current budget, which she helped shepherd through the Senate, has 50 special provisions which are climate adaptation measures. These include the construction of water catchment, the program to have vegetable gardens in schools, and the creation of farm-to-market roads with ditches, she said.
On the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019, Legarda said she was supporting the approach of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to make it cash-based.
This means government agencies have to obligate and disburse their allocations for 2019 within the same year.
“What does it mean? The services for our people will be faster,” she said.
This would ensure that the funds would not be wasted, she added.
Legarda noted that in previous years with obligation-based budgets, agencies had two years to spend the funds for projects. This resulted in projects moving slowly, as these were not necessarily implemented within the year.
The cash-based approach would promote fiscal discipline, she said.
“We want people to feel the use of taxpayer money for their benefit ASAP,” she added.
She noted that in the 2017 budget, some P168 billion was unobligated. The money could have been spent for important projects, but agencies could apparently not handle the amount.
Because agencies were unable to spend all of their allocations in previous years, the DBM had slashed their budgets for 2019.
But this has given rise to some concerns, with some lawmakers questioning the reduction of the budget for frontline services, such as classrooms and new health facilities and equipment.
Congressmen are against cash-based budgeting because their multi-year projects would be affected by the policy shift from obligation-based budgeting.
Hybrid budget system
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the House of Representatives was pushing a hybrid budgeting system for the 2019 appropriations as a compromise. The hybrid will be a combination of cash-based and obligation-based budgeting systems.
Andaya bared that there has already been a compromise with the DBM on the budgeting system issue. He explained that under the proposed system, the agency shall be given up to a six-month extension to accomplish a project and disburse the allocated budget.
Legarda said there were funds for classroom construction next year, although reduced, because the 2017 and 2018 allocations for these have actually yet to be completely spent.
As for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health, she said she would reinstall the budget for this, but she would first check how much has been implemented in previous years and how much remains to be finished.
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