Senators ask: Why is flood control budget bigger than agriculture, defense funds?
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Wednesday questioned the huge allocation for flood control next year placed under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
For 2024, the DPWH is seeking a P215 billion budget for flood control.
“For the record, this is six times larger than entire outlays for school buildings, 16 times larger than the outlay for hospitals, and then eight times larger than the calamity funds,” Senator Grace Poe said at a budget hearing in the Senate.
“So talagang kailangang ay detalyado kung ano ang mga plano na ito,” she said.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero also pursued this issue.
Directing his questions to the administration’s economic team, Escudero asked why the budget for flood control is bigger than the allocations of other government agencies like the entire agriculture sector with P181 billion.
This, he said, is considering that the country is an agricultural economy and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. sits as the concurrent head of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“The fifth biggest allocation, not even a department, is flood control,” Escudero said.
Given the problems with China, the senator could not also understand why the government would spend more on flood control instead of beefing up the country’s defense against perceived enemies.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman explained that all projects of government are “equally important” but pointed out that the big budget for flood control is “timely” given the recent flooding in parts of the country.
Pangandaman quickly clarified, though, that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “cannot identify the flood control projects.”
“You’re saying based on your earlier answer, wala kayong say doon sa allocation within the DPWH budget for different programs?” Senator Sonny Angara, the panel chairman, asked.
“Wala po,” the budget chief said, “because they have an internal formula of providing caps for every major project and program under the DPWH budget.”
Still, Escudero asked why the DBM allowed one item in the budget of the DPWH to be bigger than the funds of the DA and other departments.
The senator also scrutinized Pangandaman’s earlier mention of the recent flooding as the reason for the big flood control budget.
In the proposal, most of the budget for flood control would go to the National Capital Region which Escudero said did not suffer as much as the provinces in Region III.
Region III, however, would only get P10 billion or 3.9 percent of the total budget for flood control, he also noted.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva was surprised to learn that the 2024 National Expenditures Program (NEP) did not contain funding for a 60-kilometer floodway in the region.
His home province Bulacan was among those affected by recent flooding in the country.
Villanueva noted that no less than DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan had mentioned in another Senate hearing about the floodway project that would address the flooding in Bulacan and nearby provinces.
“But I was checking the NEP this coming year, Mr. President, it’s not there,” he said.