Senators quiz DPWH over P75-B ‘insertions’
MANILA, Philippines — Senators quizzed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Monday over the P75 billion that was added to the agency’s proposed 2019 budget.
From the original proposal of P480 billion, the DPWH’s budget was raised to P555 billion when Malacañang submitted the proposed 2019 national budget to Congress.
So when the DPWH budget was presented to the Senate for discussion, Senator Panfilo Lacson asked the agency pointblank if it was aware of the additional P75 billion.
Senator Loren Legarda, who was defending the agency’s budget as chair of the Senate committee on finance, explained that as of July 11, 2018, the additional P75 billion was not “part of the DPWH submission.”
In May 2018, Legarda said the DPWH requested a P651-billion budget ceiling but was told by the Department of Budget and Management that the recommended budget ceiling was only P480 billion.
In June, Villar confirmed the P480-billion budget ceiling, which, according to Legarda, was 36 percent lower than the budget request of P651 billion.
“July 2018, Secretary Villar submitted the DPWH budget proposal of P480 billon for his year with a breakdown,” Legarda said.
“So the P75B is not part of the DPWH submission as of July 11, 2018,” she pointed out.
No less than Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno admitted learning about the P75 billion when he faced the Question Hour at the House of Representatives in December last year.
“DPWH learned about (it) after it was included in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) for the deliberations of Congress,” Legarda said.
But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon wondered why the P75 billion was suddenly added to the DPWH budget.
“Because there was fiscal space, and second, because there were more projects that could have been accommodated and implemented and that’s part of the budgetary process,” Legarda said.
Not satisfied with the explanation, Drilon branded the additional budget as “illogical.”
“We don’t blame you because that’s what’s being fed to you. What we can’t believe (is) the presentation that suddenly P75 billion is added when DBM was the one who imposed the ceiling in the first place,” the Minority Leader said.
Senator Richard Gordon also stood up on the floor and agreed with Lacson and Drilon.
“This is serious stuff Mr. President,” Gordon said, adding that Congress has the prerogative to find out why the P75 billion was suddenly added to the DPWH budget.
Lacson then moved to have the P75 billion deleted from the DPWH budget during the period of interpellations. /ee
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