DPWH budget swells by P51B; Makabayan hits scant details
The bicameral conference committee report on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 has been pumped up with “substantial” increases for public works projects and other “new” provisions that lack details, the Makabayan party list bloc said on Thursday.
The budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), received a “notable” net increase of P51.1 billion, after it was increased by P318.4 billion and slashed by P276 billion, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said at a weekly House press briefing.
He said a scrutiny of the bicam report, which was submitted to Malacañang for the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte, confirmed the group’s initial findings that the proposed spending bill was packed with alleged pork barrel funds that slashed substantial amounts from funds for social services like education.
Makabayan lawmakers also questioned the inclusion of a “new” provision, which was meant to fund the Tatag ng Imprastraktura para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad program, a joint undertaking between the DPWH and the Department of Defense.The Department of the Interior and Local Government also posted a notable increase of P2.6 billion, including P1.7 billion for the Philippine National Police, but which supposedly lacked details.
The bicam report also supposedly infused an additional P16 billion into the Philippine Navy, which, Zarate said, was never approved by the House of Representatives.
“This leaves us to wonder: Where did they get the funding for all these? We have reason to believe that this was part of the fund slashed from social services,” he said.
The budget for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also received an increase of P1.2 billion, but without details, the Bayan Muna lawmaker said.
Other increases but without any details include P400 million for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, P199.2 million for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, P106 million for the Dangerous Drugs Board, P100 million for the National Security Council, P53 million for the Presidential Management Staff and P50 million for the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
DepEd budget cut by P6.5B
“It is now up for the [Department of Budget and Management] and Malacañang to clarify what these provisions in the bicam report contain.
Ultimately, we call on the President to veto these ‘pork-like’ items in the budget,” Zarate said.Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said it was also revolting that the bicam report reduced the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd), by P6.5 billion, from P36 billion to P29.5 billion,
This item was supposedly intended for the “construction, replacement and completion of kindergarten, elementary and secondary school buildings and technical vocational laboratories and the construction of water and sanitation facilities,” he said.
Gaite said the DepEd budget for its “basic education facilities” decreased just as many public school buildings, such as those destroyed by the recent earthquakes in Mindanao, need immediate rehabilitation.
While the proposed 2020 budget for the Department of Health was increased in the bicam by P101 billion, it remains lower than its 2018 funding, he said.
‘Militaristic’“This budget is nothing but militaristic and stuffed with pork barrel funds, intended for this government’s war being waged against its critics,” Zarate said.
The 2020 General Appropriations Bill was approved and ratified by both chambers of Congress on Dec. 11, amid charges of questionable insertions allegedly by House members.
The spending bill has been submitted to Malacañang and was supposedly set to be signed by Mr. Duterte on Wednesday. The signing ceremony was canceled for unclear reasons, according to lawmakers.
House Bill No. 4228, or the 2020 spending bill, was already “riddled” with pork barrel funds when it left the House and it was worsened by the deliberations in the bicam, Zarate said.
“What makes this proposed budget truly disgusting is that the proponents of the amendments did not show to the members the details of the changes. All they saw were bare figures,” he said.
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