Solon admits requesting P400M projects in 2020 proposed budget
MANILA, Philippines — Magsasaka Rep. Argel Cabatbat has confirmed availing of the P100-million allocation per congressman under the proposed 2020 national budget, saying his party-list even requested up to P300 to P400 million worth of infrastructure and soft projects.
In the weekly party-list forum Thursday, Cabatbat said he requested funding for specific farm-to-market roads, water impoundment projects and irrigation projects mostly in countryside areas like Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Negros Oriental and Isabela.
“‘Yung sa amin, ‘yung inidentify namin, ‘yung mga kalsadang kailangan ng magsasaka, mga farm-to-market [roads]… Pati ‘yung mga water impoundment, mga hard projects na para sa mga farmers at base din po sa mga request ng mga constituents namin,” the neophyte lawmaker said.
Cabatbat said he has yet to receive a copy of his approved projects but so far, around P50 million worth of projects have been included in the first version of the General Appropriations Bill which the House is currently tackling.
“Nag-request kami ng around P300 [to] 400 million. Hindi ko alam kung makakapasok ‘yan…” he said. “Lahat po ng mga ‘yan umaasa tayo na mapagbibigyan, although they’re not keeping our hopes up.”
Asked how these allocations per congressman could no longer be identified as pork-barrel which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional in 2013, Cabatbat, a lawyer, argued: “Ang pork barrel kasi lump sum eh.”
“Kung ito ay line-items na dumaan mismo sa proseso… I think hindi na ‘yun pork barrel,” he added.
It was House ways and means committee chair and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda who earlier bared that each House member would get P100 million worth of hard and soft projects in the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.
Salceda and other House leaders were quick to point out that these allocations were itemized in the proposed expenditure and could not be considered as pork barrel.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said Wednesday their six-man Makabayan opposition block did not avail of the allocation. He said this system, even if claimed to be legal, is still part of the “patronage and corruptive system used by the executive department… to keep Congress under its strong influence and pliant to its wishes.”
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier certified the 2020 budget bill as urgent. The House is expected to approve it on second reading on Friday to prevent a repeat of the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget caused by legislators’ fighting over alleged kickback-laden pork barrel funds. /je
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