Diokno: Surge in flood control projects due to climate change
Updated @ 11:29 p.m., Dec. 17, 2018
The surge in flood control spending in the current national budget is the government’s response to climate change, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Monday.
Speaking in a television interview, Diokno said the spike in mitigation spending had nothing to do with the alleged “parking” of pork in the budget.
Diokno was responding to a question about an alleged scheme employed by congressmen to hide pork in the national budget.
The scheme came to light after Sen. Panfilo Lacson detected pork in the P3.8-trillion proposed budget for 2019, which he said was “parked” in the allotments for “well-connected” House representatives, who would offer the money to not-so-well funded districts in exchange for being allowed to choose the contractors for the projects.
Lacson described parking as a “new scheme” to generate kickbacks.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. last week blamed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the insertion of P75 billion in infrastructure spending in the proposed 2019 budget without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez later blamed the insertion on Diokno and introduced a resolution urging the President to fire the budget chief.
Malacañang rejected the House move, while the Senate defended Diokno against attacks by the congressmen.
Diokno said in his television interview on Monday that Public Works Secretary Mark Villar was aware of the P75-billion “adjustment” to his agency’s budget but did not complain.
“Mark should not deny that. He knows that because the budget was presented in the Cabinet and as I’ve said the instruction of the President: ‘If you can’t live with this budget then you resign.’ Something to that effect,” Diokno said.
“Mark did not complain, ‘Oops, I don’t like the P75 billion.’ The record will show he didn’t complain,” Diokno added.
There was no immediate comment from Villar on Monday.
Flood control spending
Andaya earlier said parking could be the explanation for the spike in flood control spending in the 2018 budget.
He noted that the spending surged from P79 billion in 2017 to P133 billion this year.
In his television interview on Monday, Diokno said the DBM decided to “quadruple” the infrastructure spending this year to respond to climate change.
He said the government had been spending only 2.6 percent of the budget for infrastructure.
“That’s low. That’s why we have the poorest infrastructure in this part of the world,” he said.
“So now our plan is increase that 2.6 percent to about 5 percent and eventually 7 percent,” he said.
“That’s why they find it big. All of a sudden, ‘Wow, the budget is big,’” he said.
The DBM, Diokno said, has nothing to do with parking, which he described as a matter for legislators.
“That’s among legislators. That’s supposed to be a share of a legislator parked in a district. So that must be coming from a party-list representative. But we have nothing to do with that,” he said.
Andaya said last week that the House would investigate the alleged insertions in the draft 2019 budget.
Diokno said in his TV interview on Monday that he was not allowed to appear in the investigation.
“I’m not allowed to attend,” he said, without identifying the source of the instruction.
“Because, what do they want from me? To say that I don’t know these people? Then I’ll just issue an affidavit. I don’t know these people,” Diokno said.
Executive Order No. 464
Asked if the Duterte administration had revived Executive Order (EO) No. 464, which prohibited Cabinet officials from attending congressional inquiries without permission from the President, Diokno replied: “They are actually studying the same EO. And my understanding is we will not be allowed to [attend congressional inquiries].”
EO 464 was introduced in 2005 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now the Speaker of the House, at the height of the Senate investigation of a corruption-laden deal with a Chinese company for broadband internet for government offices. She revoked the order in 2008. /je /pdi
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