Andaya: Senate cuts on 2019 budget ‘sabotaged’ Duterte’s programs
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate “sabotaged” the Duterte administration’s programs after it “unilaterally decided” to cut down about P83.7 billion of allocation for priority projects, including those under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan, House appropriations panel chair Rolando Andaya Jr. said Monday.
The Camarines Sur 1st district congressman revived his tirades against the Senate after his known political rival, Camarines Sur 2nd Dist. Rep. Luis Raymund Vilafuerte Jr., had accused the House leadership of “illegally realigning” over P90 billion in public works and health funds from the ratified 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to “favored lawmakers.”
“It is the Senate that may find itself liable to accusation of sabotage when it decided, unilaterally, to cut down the allocation for the President’s Build, Build, Build Program and other priority projects,” Andaya said in a statement, expressing confidence that the Office of the President would consider these items in its budget review and “find ways on how to restore them in the President’s veto message.”
The 2019 national budget bill was transmitted to Duterte last March 26, but Senate President Vicente Sotto III advised that the Chief Executive veto the P75 billion worth of programs under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways which he said had been “unconstitutionally” realigned by the House after the GAB’s ratification.
Andaya claimed they “never reduce the 2019 budget for infrastructure projects as appropriated in the National Expenditure Program.”
“In fact, the House introduced amendments increasing the budget for infrastructure projects without breaching the total amount pegged by the National Expenditure Program,” the lawmaker said.
“We made sure, however, that such amendment will pass the test not only of constitutionality and legality, but also of transparency and accountability,” he added.
To prove his allegations against the Senate, Andaya said items allegedly taken out of the 2019 GAB by the Senate include, but not limited to, the following:
- Department of Transportation – P5 billion for right-of-way projects;
2. Department of Public Works and Highways – P 11.033 billion for right-of-way projects;
- Foreign Assisted Projects under DPWH – P2.5 billion;
- Tehnical Education and Skills Development Authority – P3 billion for scholarship of rebel returnees, out-of-school youths and rehabilitating drug dependents enrolled under the Universal Access to Tertiary Education, which would lead to loss of scholarship of at least 320,000 students;
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources – P2.254 billion for National Greening Program, which resulted in a 50 percent budget cut for all Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officers except Antique;
- Department of Foreign Affairs – P7.5 billion budget for SEA Games taken out, but P5 billion transferred to Philippine Sports Commission and P2.5 billion nowhere to be found;
- Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund – P13.4 billion. The MPBF is one of three sources of money paid to government personnel. The other two are the budgets lodged under each agency and the Pension and Gratuity Fund. Under Special Provision No. 1, the MPBF may be used for “deficiencies in authorized salaries, bonuses, allowances, associated premiums and other similar personnel benefits of national government personnel….”; and
- Pension and Gratuity Fund – P39 billion. This fund covers the payment for the following:
- Pension of AFP retirees; war or military veterans of the DND; retired uniformed personnel of the DILG, PC-INP, NAMRIA and Philippine Coast Guard; and other retirees of the National Government.
- Retirement benefits for optional retirees of the National Government; retired personnel of GOCCs which are financially unable to pay said benefits; and personnel devolved to LGUs.
- Separation benefits or incentives of affected personnel pursuant to the implementation of : (i) restructuring of agencies affected by the integration and automation of the Budget Treasury and Management System and the operationalization of the Treasury Single Account; and (ii) rightsizing, merger, streamlining , abolition or privatization.
- Monetization of leave credits of National Government personnel and transferred leave credits of those devolved to the LGUs.
Andaya said details of these budget cuts were not fully discussed in the bicameral conference committee and “senators unilaterally decided on the budget cuts and realigned them to other items based on request of individual proponents.”
Up to now, the Senate has yet to make public a detailed report on the proponents who recommended the individual realignments, Andaya added.
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