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Unreleased funds for P100-B projects, medical scholarships worry senators

/ 09:44 PM September 22, 2021
Some senators on Wednesday raised concerns over the funds yet to be released for billions worth of projects as well as medical scholarships only three months before the year ends.

The Senate building at the GSIS Complex in Pasay City. (Photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Some senators on Wednesday raised concerns over the funds yet to be released for billions worth of projects as well as medical scholarships only three months before the year ends.

During the budget hearing of the Office of the President (OP), senators quizzed officials regarding funds classified as “for later release” (FLR).

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Under the FLR, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) cannot release an appropriation unless it is cleared by the OP.

“It’s been nine months hindi pa rin tapos yung vetting process niyo [but you still have to complete your vetting process],” Senator Nancy Binay said.

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“Nakakabahala lang [It’s alarming],” she added.

Before this, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong explained to senators that projects to be funded with FLR funds need to go through thorough vetting.

“As these are not part of the original plan, we have to make sure that they are vetted fully by the agencies and the DBM before they are released,” Ong said.

Still, Binay pointed out that there are only three months left in the year and if these funds are not utilized, they will be reverted to the treasury.

Citing a previous budget hearing, Binay said some P100-billion worth of infrastructure projects are not yet implemented because the OP has yet to approve the release of funding.

Aside from these projects, funding for medical scholarships under the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act are also under the FLR category, according to Binay.

“So imbes na madagdagan yung students natin, yung scholarship natin for incoming medical students, hindi maka-avail kasi nga kasama siya doon sa hindi nare-release na pondo,” she lamented.

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(So instead of having more medical students, the funding for the medical scholarships, they can’t avail of it because the funding are part of the funds that have yet to be released.)

Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, called on the OP to prioritize these projects and scholarships as well as the release of FLR funds for other items related to education, health and infrastructure.

“That’s much needed by the country,” Angara said.

“We understand naman yung point ni Sec. [Ong] that they must be vetted…pero segundahan ko na lang yung sinabi ni [But I agree with] Sen. Nancy: it’s been nine months,” he added.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, for his part, assured that the OP will be “faster” in its process of approval of the said funds.

“We’ll have to look at it para ma-vet lang mabuti [so we can vet it thoroughly],” Medialdea told senators, adding that “many” FLR funds have already been released.

But he admitted that there were delays in the processing of the FLR items.

“I saw some delays, may mga nangyari nga at iniimbestigahan ko yan at sabi ko, ‘pag nalabas na dito, labas niyo (DBM) na rin kaagad diyan,” Medialdea said.

(I saw some delays, it has happened, I am investigating that and I also told DBM that if the approval comes out of the OP, they should also release it immediately.)

“Yung isa halos more than a week [from OP’s approval] bago lumabas…So my attention was called. I took it up with DBM, kung pwede bilisan lang,” he added.

(In one instance, it took more than a week after we approved it before the funds were released…So my attention was called. I took it up with the DBM and asked them to hasten it.)

JPV

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