House eyes cuts in OVP, DepEd confidential funds to boost PCG’s budget
MANILA, Philippines — Confidential funds in the proposed 2024 budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and Department of Education (DepEd) will be reduced to give way to the allocation for Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), House appropriations chair and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co announced.
In a text message to INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, Co confirmed that lawmakers are looking at the confidential funds (CF) in the two agencies — both headed by Vice President Sara Duterte — to augment the PCG funding.
Co said this after House leaders decided to push for the realignment of CF to agencies involved in intelligence gathering, such as the PCG, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Security Council (NSC), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), after China’s recent intrusive activities in West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Yes, we agree as discussed yesterday. All confidential funds, best is to give government intelligence communities especially. We need a lot in this pressing time on the issue of West Philippine Sea,” Co said.
When asked if these would be sourced from OVP and DepEd, Co responded in the affirmative.
“Yes. That’s what we have identified as of now,” he revealed.
In a later statement, Co said that the country’s security and ensuring territorial integrity are top priorities of the government — hence it is important to give
“The country’s safety and security are of paramount importance. To protect our territorial integrity from external threats, Congress is giving top priority to agencies directly in charge (of) protecting the country’s safety and securing its borders,” he stressed.
“As discussed, we will realign the confidential funds of various civilian agencies. Now is the time to give our intelligence community the means to perform their duties, especially in these pressing times when we’re facing serious concerns in the West Philippine Sea,” he explained.
Co reaffirmed in the latest statement that they are looking at OVP and DepEd’s CFs, but they are also checking other possible sources.
“So far that’s what we have identified, but we’re still looking at other sources,” he said.
OVP had asked for CF worth P500 million, while DepEd had asked for P150 million.
Earlier, leaders of six political parties of the House of Representatives expressed their willingness to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to security agencies responsible for intelligence and surveillance activities in WPS.
Among the lawmakers who signed the joint statement are:
- Rizal 1st District Representative Michael John Duavit
- Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel
- Romblon Lone District Representative Eleandro Madrona
- Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Jose “Joboy” Aquino II
- BHW party-list Representative Angelica Natasha Co
- Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte
This decision came after the China Coast Guard installed a floating barrier southeast of Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc off the coast of Zambales last September 22.
Budget deliberations at the House and Senate have led to intense discussions about confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) after lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc called out the OVP over its CF allocation in 2022.
Makabayan claimed OVP cannot place any CF as its 2022 budget, crafted during the time of former vice president Leni Robredo, did not have any provision for such funds.
Department of Budget and Management and Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo then clarified that the CF, sourced from the contingent fund, was placed on an existing line item in the 2022 budget.
But these talks have led to greater scrutiny for proposals to include CF in several agencies.