How House removed, reduced the confidential funds of gov’t agencies
MANILA, Philippines — House of Representatives rejected the request of some government agencies for confidential funds (CF) in the 2024 national budget.
A number of lawmakers cited the need to reallocate the funds to units securing West Philippine Sea (WPS).
However, it is unclear how much of the CF of government offices were moved and what other units were affected by the reallocations.
Data gathered by House reporters reveal Office of the Vice President (OVP) took the biggest cut in its proposed budget.
It was not granted its P500 million request for CF.
House Committee on Appropriations senior vice chair and Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo also said no conversion was made for OVP.
This instance differs from the case of Department of Education (DepEd).
The P150 million CF request of the department was converted into an item under maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
Here is a list of agencies whose proposed CFs were removed, ranked according to the size of the CF:
OVP: P500 million
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT): P300 million
DepEd: P150 million
Department of Justice (DOJ-Office of the Secretary): P88.6 million
Office of the Ombudsman: P50.4 million
Department of Agriculture (DA): P50 million
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA): P50 million
Bureau of Customs (BOC): P30.5 million
Office of the Solicitor General (OSG): P9.2 million
Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU): P6 million
Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC): P2.5 million
A total of P1.2 billion worth of requested CFs were moved in the national budget.
This translated to 0.6 percent of P194 billion worth of institutional amendments that were made by the small committee.
The committee crafted the final version of House-approved General Appropriations Bill.
Figures given by Quimbo on Tuesday showed the proposed CFs were realigned to following defense-oriented agencies:
P300 million for National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)
P100 million for National Security Council (NSC)
P200 million to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for intelligence activities and ammunition
P381.8 million to Department of Transportation (DOTr) for airport development and expansion of Pag-asa Island Airport.
Meanwhile, the proposed CFs of some agencies were converted into items under MOOE.
An example is DepEd wherein its P150 million request for CF was turned into assistance for teachers and students.
P30 million for Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
P25 million for DICT
P30 million for DFA
P50 million for Office of the Ombudsman
P150 million for DepEd’s Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE)
For his part, Ombudsman Samuel Martires sent a letter expressing his position that House may cut his agency’s CF.
“In the case of the Ombudsman naman, ang nangyari po do’n is nagkaroon po siya ng request,” Quimbo said.
(In the case of the Ombudsman, what happened there is that he had a request.)
“Siya (Ombudsman Martires) po ay sumulat at sa kanyang liham, nag-express siya ng preference,” she added.
(He (Ombudsman Martires) wrote to us and in his letter, he expressed a preference.)
Quimbo also mentioned that bigger realignments were made in the budget to fight inflation, uphold territorial integrity, and promote transparency and accountability:
P20 billion to DA for rice subsidy to sell rice at subsidized prices
P40 billion to National Irrigation Administration to install solar-powered irrigation pumps and subsidized communal irrigation
P2 billion to Philippine Coconut Authority for planting of seedlings
P1.5 billion for vaccines against African Swine Fever
P1. billion to Philippine Fisheries Authority to construct fishery and post-harvest facilities in Palawan and Kalayaan Group of Islands
P43.9 billion to DOH for medical assistance to indigent patients or MAIP; legacy and specialty hospitals; cancer assistance; communicable diseases program; and health facility enhancement
P1-billion to UP Philippine General Hospital for MAIP
P35 billion for Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) and Sustainable Livelihood Program
P17.5 billion to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for TUPAD program or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers/Government Internship Program
P10.4 billion for DOLE-Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Training for Work Scholarship Program
P17.1 billion for Tertiary Education Subsidy and Tulong Dunong Program of Commission on Higher Education (CHED)
Quimbo believes House is on the right side of history as next year’s budget should address more pressing challenges.
“The main goal was to rationalize the allocation of resources to fight inflation and invest in human capital and our country’s future,” she said.
“We are responding to the call of the times. And the volatile situation in the West Philippine Sea calls for immediate and decisive action to protect our national sovereignty,” she added.