Ako Bicol solon reminds agencies: Spend budget now, avoid rainy season delay
MANILA, Philippines — Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co has reminded government agencies to start spending their budgets before the rainy season starts, saying inclement weather and the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections may further delay projects that have not been initiated.
Co, chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on appropriations, explained that the ban on projects due to the elections, which will be held in October, may mean that government agencies may have to move their schedules if they start projects late into the first half of 2023.
Last December 2023, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed his administration’s first national budget worth P5.268 trillion.
“I remind the departments and other agencies with infra funds to obligate and spend those funds this year, and any infra funds obligated last year but not yet spent should also be spent in 2023,” Co said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I also remind all departments and agencies to make sure they avoid the election spending ban that comes with the Barangay and SK Elections in October this year and the rainy season that comes from July to September while also following the government procurement law and regulation,” he added.
According to Co, his panel already reminded the executive branch as early as the budget deliberations last August to September that the programs should be implemented quickly — especially since the country goes into a recovery mode.
The committee head said they want to avoid hearing excuses as to why budget utilization is low.
“During the budget hearings, Members of Congress kept noting the billions worth of projects and programs delayed and not implemented. We should have much fewer delays and non-implementation this year. But the time the 2024 budget hearings get underway next August, we expect accomplishment reports, not apologies and excuses,” Co said.
“We are already in the month of March, which means the government agencies have April, May, and June and then from November to December for the infra and another major spending. They should apply lessons learned by improving absorptive capacity and spending in those months where spending and projects could be hampered,” he added.
Aside from this, Co also told agencies to spend remaining balances from the past fiscal years. As of now, the lawmaker said that government spending has driven up employment figures — up by 4.09 million in January 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.
“These job figures confirm how the economy is recovering from the pandemic, and I credit some of that to the 2022 national budget. Those January 2023 employment figures also serve as a good springboard for this year’s budget to follow through on what last year’s budget was able to restart,” he said.
“Most of the over P5 trillion national budget can give jobs to the unemployed, including the 334 thousand construction workers who were jobless in January 2023 because they were not hired during the 2022 year-end seasonal dip in government spending,” he added.
Over the years, there have been several stories about agencies not being able to implement projects quickly. Last December, lawmakers pushed to cut the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), as its budget utilization was a measly two percent. With reports from MJ Soriano, INQUIRER.net trainee
Its budget was eventually restored, but it got a smaller share compared to previous years.