DPWH questioned over fund allocations to congressional districts | Inquirer News

DPWH questioned over fund allocations to congressional districts

/ 04:31 PM September 17, 2020
DPWH questioned over fund allocations to congressional districts

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar INQUIRER FILE/LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines — Debates on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) heated up Thursday at the House of Representatives after a lawmaker questioned the funds allocated to congressional districts by the agency, particularly in Taguig City and Camarines Sur.

During the hearing of the House committee on appropriations, Negros Oriental 3rd Dist. Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. grilled DPWH Secretary Mark Villar over the distribution of funds to various districts in the country.

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He fired a series of questions and first asked for the list of top five districts with the highest funds from DPWH.

“Are they personalities? Party affiliation? Position? Or others, please elaborate and specify,” Teves said as he asked the basis for the said allocations to the districts.

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Teves then disclosed what he called as a “hearsay” that Taguig City is getting more than P8 billion while Camarines Sur is getting P11.8 billion and asked Villar to confirm this.

The lawmaker later mentioned Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who serves as the representative of Taguig-Pateros and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte who represents the 2nd District of Camarines Sur.

“Sinabihan pa ‘yung staff ko kahapon na ‘yung datos daw ay confidential. I don’t think any of the public documents are confidential,” Teves said.

Villar responded, saying he would submit documents related to Teves’ queries.

“We will submit the list of those that received [allocations] although I would just like to say there is already—the appropriations committee is in possession of this per district and they can give it immediately. That is immediately available, there’s no—wala namang tinatago,” Villar said.

Villar, however, failed to verbally disclose how much Taguig City and Camarines Sur are getting but said that should there be questions and concerns on how the national expenditure program is viewed, they are “more than willing to coordinate with Congress.”

Teves insisted on having the list of allocations so that the public would see for themselves as he argued that his district only received less than P2 billion despite being number eight in absorptive capacity in the country.

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“Dapat ‘yun ‘yung binibigyan ng malaking budget kasi ibig sabihin nun, nagagamit namin ang pondo namin,” Teves explained, as he asked Villar to confirm whether Taguig City and Camarines Sur are indeed going to receive such allocations.

“I’m not satisfied with the answer, I’m very sorry Mr. Secretary. There were two places I mentioned, I want a confirmation kung totoo ba ‘yun na ganun kalaki ang natatanggap nila and I would like to ask why, why the disparity?” the lawmaker added.

Villar, once again, failed to directly answer the question.

“I can show you the amount, but it’s not my place to give an opinion on the budget. It’s open for the scrutiny of Congress,” said Villar.

“With regards to numbers, we go by district engineering office, not by legislative districts. So if you’d like the breakdown, we can also submit that to you,” he later added.

Still unsatisfied with Villar’s response, Teves said there would be no problems with his district only receiving such an amount if his district was not performing.

“Hindi ko talaga maintindihan at gusto kong maintindihan ko, ng constituents ko, at ng buong bayan. At sana dumating sa tenga ng ating Presidente na may malaking disparity dito,” Teves said.

“At may nangyari pa sa akin nung nakaraang taon na bigla na lang nawala ‘yung budget ng distrito ko,” he added.

Willing to have zero budget

Teves said he had to speak up, even if it means receiving no budget for 2021.

“I-zero man ‘yung budget ko, bahala na. Pero hindi na pwedeng mananahimik lang ako parati na ‘yung iba dito, ang lalaki ng budget, ‘yung iba hindi,” Teves said.

“Sana lang masagot ako nang diretso. Pero kung ayaw akong sagutin, hindi ko naman mapipilit. But again, the country deserves to know because pera ito ng taumbayan,” he added.

Teves insisted his belief that since his district is eight in absorptive capacity in the whole country, they should also be getting the eighth highest budget of the country for projects.

“Wala akong kinakalaban dito. Kaibigan ko si Speaker, schoolmate kami. Si LRay kasama ko rin ‘yan. Pero ang naririnig ko lang ganito, bakit ganun? Sana lang maliwanagan kami,” Teves said.

“This is nothing personal. I just want to know because I’m really fed up already on why we’re getting these measly amounts and the others are getting so high,” he added.

Villar responded, saying they do not have the immediate breakdown of each legislative district.

“When you’re asking for the basis for the projects, the basis is not necessarily absorptive capacity. It also includes the pipeline of projects. There are certain foreign-funded projects that are present in a certain district so it might seem that there is a larger budget,” Villar explained.

“Certain areas have flagship projects that are vetted by the NEDA that show a higher level of economic return and those are prioritized by this administration.”

“It’s not a question of per district, it’s just really that there are some districts where there is a presence of flagship projects there and priority projects of the administration,” Villar further said.

Following the heated debate, House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. moved for the deferment of the deliberations due to the low number of DPWH officials present in the plenary.

KGA
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TAGS: budget, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Mark Villar
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