Lawmakers lament budget cut in DTI for 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers lamented the cut in the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), saying that the funds could have helped particularly the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
During the hybrid hearing of the House committee on appropriations to tackle the proposed budget of DTI for 2021, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the proposed allocation for the department and its attached agencies for 2021 is at P20.162 billion, slightly lower than the 2020 budget at P20.955 billion.
Lopez said that they proposed a higher budget.
In his interpellation, Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Weslie Gatchalian, who chairs the House committee on trade and industry, said that the proposed fund is “disappointing” because this is far from President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous pronouncements.
Gatchalian said that in the previous State of the Nation Address, Duterte called for intensified efforts to help MSMEs, support the Small Business Corporation, improve consumer protection, develop the e-commerce industry, and the passage of the Internet Transaction Act.
“During the SONA, he (Duterte) specifically mentioned these five items and all of [these are] in support of DTI and respecting the need of these five items especially now during the pandemic,” Gatchalian said.
“And after nating i-review yung numbers natin and hearing the different sentiments of our colleagues, napakalayo and very disappointing na hindi yata ito tumutugma sa mensahe ng ating Pangulo,” the lawmaker added.
Gatchalian said the budget of DTI should be increased.
“Kailangan po siguro nating lakihan ang pondo overall ng DTI at kung hindi man po ito mangyayari, siguro sapat na lang na ang una nating—kung pwedeng palakihin ang pondo ay ang tulung para sa MSMEs,” Gatchalian said.
The lawmaker likewise said that aside from the registered MSMEs, there are also around three to four million unregistered MSMEs in the country which could also be given assistance.
“If this fund is not enough for the registered, papaano pa yung three to four million [unregistered] na gusto nating tulungan at kailangan nating tulungan?” Gatchalian said.
Cagayan De Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, meanwhile, hit the Department of Budget Management (DBM), saying the agency “does not see the need to protect our MSMEs.”
Rodriguez said DTI’s budget should be augmented.
“I would like to express my disappointment to the Department of Budget and Management for giving a budget for DTI, not commensurate to its mandate. The Department of Trade and Industry is the department that is the engine of growth for our country,” Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher De Venecia pointed out that several of DTI’s major projects had lower allocations for next year compared to 2020 despite the need to help small businesses in the country.
De Venecia said that it is “not fair” for the DTI to not even be among the ten government agencies with the highest funding for 2021.
“I’m sure suportado ng komiteng ito lalong-lalo na under the leadership of Manny Zubiri yung mga kakailanganing additional funds ng DTI kasi hindi makatarungan na wala sila sa top 10 agencies na may pinakamataas na budget lalong-lalo na ngayon na hikahos ang aning mga negosyo at MSME,” De Venecia said.
Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas asked how there will be “reset, rebound, and recovery” in the trade and industry sector if the budget was cut.
“Masakit na naman sa ulo yang tinapyasan na budget ng DTI by P1.3 billion. Ine-expect natin magbo-boost ng funding and DTI dahil sa impacts ng COVID-19 pandemic at particular pa ‘tung mea key programs on industry development and MSME support ang nawala, nabawasan,” Brosas said. [ac]
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