Lawmakers weigh in on Marcos’ P1.4 billion travel kitty
Senators on Friday said there was nothing wrong with raising President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s travel budget by nearly 60 percent, but they will make sure that such an allocation is justified.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said the Senate would closely scrutinize the Department of Budget and Management’s allotment of P1.408 billion for the President’s local and foreign trips next year, a considerable jump from P893.57 million in 2023.
“While the President has been able to market the country [in his recent foreign trips], we also have to spend to fix our airports and fund more infrastructure projects,” Ejercito said in a Zoom media briefing.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the public resources spent for Marcos’ foreign trips were “really worth it” since they were able to secure investment pledges for the country.
During the President’s state visit to Malaysia last week alone, various Malaysian business groups pledged some $275 million in possible investments.
“At the end of the day, [the President] is in the best position to market the country,” Villanueva said.
“But then again, anything excessive is not good. So we will examine carefully the budget proposal to ensure that public resources will be put to good use,” he added.
For Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, the chair of the Senate ways and means committee, the proposed increase in presidential travel expenses was “justifiable.”
Trips bearing fruit
He said that foreign investment pledges increased by 120 percent since Marcos assumed office.
“In other words, in my analysis, the past [foreign] trips of the President are bearing fruit by attracting interest to our country,” Gatchalian said.
“But these are [just] pledges, admittedly. We have to translate that into real investments,” he added. “The biggest question and challenge is when the actual investment will come in, to follow through those investment [pledges]. And that’s a different story.”
Opposition lawmakers, however, disagreed and said that the President’s “lavish trips” were “exorbitant and unacceptable.”
“This exorbitant amount represents a 58 percent increase from the 2023 national budget, and it is unacceptable, considering the pressing needs of the Filipino people,” House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene Brosas said in a statement.
Brosas questioned the “priorities of such extensive travel arrangements,” which the Palace justified as necessary for the President’s attendance in regional summits and visits to key allies.