Andaya urges Duterte to restore more than P80B cut in 2019 budget
MANILA, Philippines — House Appropriations Chair Rolando Andaya Jr. on Friday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to restore the more than P80 billion allegedly slashed by the Senate in the 2019 budget intended for the chief executive’s projects.
In a statement, Andaya accused the senators that the billions of funds removed from the President’s priority projects were used to fund their pet projects.
“If President Duterte eventually decides to adopt a reenacted budget throughout the year, that will give him an opportunity to restore more than P80 billion, which was slashed by the Senate from allocations intended for the President’s projects,” Andaya said a day after Duterte threatened to veto the entire P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019.
The lawmaker said Duterte’s “priorities should not be tinkered with.”
“In making his final decision, I firmly believe that the President will take into consideration the drastic budget cuts imposed by the Senate. We have repeatedly warned that the billions of pesos slashed from the 2019 budget just to fund the senators’ pet projects would hamper the implementation of the President’s major infrastructure program,” he said.
Andaya defended the delay in the passage of the budget, saying they needed to scrutinize it.
“We took extra time, however, to examine the 2019 national budget after we discovered billions of pesos inserted for projects not vetted by departments and other offices of the executive department,” he said.
“We eventually passed a national budget that will pass the test of constitutionality and legality but also of transparency and accountability. All appropriations for government programs and projects are itemized, in full compliance with the laws of the land and recent Supreme Court decisions,” he added.
Andaya said, “we cannot turn a blind eye on efforts by the Senate to sabotage the President’s priority programs and projects.”
“We cannot allow maneuverings from senators to retain a national budget riddled with discretionary lump sum funds. We exposed these sinister moves with the end in view of providing the taxpaying public with a clear picture of where their monies are spent,” he said.
He said the House is “confident that the Office of the President would consider our exposes in their review of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill and find ways to restore the Senate budget cuts in the President’s veto message.”
He specifically appealed the following items to be restored in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which he claimed were removed by the Senate:
1. 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
3. Foreign-Assisted Projects under DPWH — P2.5 billion
4. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority — P3 billion for the scholarship of rebel returnees, out-of-school youths and rehabilitating drug dependents enrolled under the Universal Access to Tertiary Education.
5. Department of Environment and Natural Resources — P2.254 billion for the National Greening Program.
6. 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.
7. 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….”
8. 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.
“We wish to emphasize that the details of these budget cuts were not fully discussed in the bicameral conference committee,” he said.
“The senators unilaterally decided on the budget cuts and realigned them to other items based on the 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said the House “has clearly defined its legislative agenda to be always in accord with and always in full support of President Duterte’s priority bills and programs.”
“Amid downright intrigues and bizarre accusations, the HoR (House of Representatives) worked hard to enhance transparency and accountability in the 2019 GAB. This move is in sync with President Duterte’s strong and unflinching stance against corruption and wastage of public funds,” Castro said in a statement on Friday.
He said the House would support whatever Duterte’s action on the 2019 national budget will be. /ee
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