“I just hope we won’t have any more reenacted budget. As we all know by now, it is the economy that is suffering. Having said that, I have some issues and concerns that need to be clarified. If the sponsor is willing to accommodate just a few points I’d like to raise.” – Sen. Lacson’s opening statement at his interpellation (general principles) on the proposed 2020 budget.
QUOTES and NOTES:
Tax reform and tax efficiency:
Figures from the World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution showed big revenue leakages from big trading partners such as China, Korea, Hong Kong and the United States, totaling some P161.5 billion.
“To sum it all up, (ang) revenue leakage natin and this involves tax administration, P161.5B. Are there efforts to plug the leakages? Baka hindi natin kailangan ng additional sin taxes kung ma-plug ang leakages. Right away we can collect additional P161.5B sa importations from a few countries, China, US, Korea, HK.”
“Assuming we plugged P161.2B in revenue losses, ano magiging impact kung na-plug natin? Instead of 3.2% deficit target natin, bababa sa 1.7% of GDP. You can just imagine if tax administration of the national government is that efficient as we are able to plug huge leakages in the tax collection malaking bagay.”
Unused appropriations/borrowings and lack of planning:
“Here we are, borrowing more than what we need kasi gusto natin mag-build up ng cash. Pero taon-taon ang laking hindi nagagamit sa budget. It doesn’t make sense. We borrow to build up cash position pero pag total natin ito, ang estimate namin mga P257B.”
“Why are we enacting the appropriations measure tapos di natin nagagamit ang full potential ng budget? P257B is a huge amount. Bakit kaya malaki ang unused?”
“I think it has something to do with planning. Kaya masama ang planning, hindi alam ng agencies. Sometimes there are items in their budget lodged in their department… these are insertions made by legislators and they were not consulted when these PAPs were inserted in the budget. Ang result, hindi ma-implement. Pag hindi na-implement, unused. Not properly vetted or planned. How do we cure this? How do we remedy unused appropriations?”
“Recurring ito every year, even during the past 10 years. During previous administrations, ang unused appropriations sa P450B. May improvement kasi 2017, P217B… Still, it doesn’t sound good as far as fiscal expenditure program of the government is concerned. How do we remedy the situation?”
“Probably it’s because RDC (Regional Development Council)-submitted PAPs hindi adopted ng national government. Ang needs and priorities should be focused on LDPs (local development plans) of different LGUs. Kung di kailangan ng LGUs at imi-impose ng national government, nagkakaroon ng unused kasi di kailangan.”
“What is the percentage of the RDC-approved PAPs compared to in-approve ng national government? When we recomputed, 25% (but) masyadong mababa pa rin. There’s a disconnect between needs and priorities of LGUs and spending program of the national government. How do we narrow the gap?”
“Maybe government should exert efforts to capacitate LGUs just to avoid the big disconnect between needs and priorities of LGUs and the national government.”
“Sa record namin, Region 5 lang masipag mag-submit, NCR di nag-iintindi ng submission of projects. Also Regions 4A and 3. Ang angat ang kabuhayan ang regions parang di interesado.”
Amending provisions of the Local Government Code:
“Ang problem sa IRA, if we fully implement the Mandanas ruling, hindi rin mag-spur ang development because only 20% is allowed by the Local Government Code for infrastructure. Ang lalaki, general services; 5% for calamity, 10% for SK, and so forth. I think there’s really a need to amend some provisions of LG code if we want to make use of the Mandanas ruling to spur development in the countryside. Because kung 20% lang sa pwede sa infrastructure, ang lalaki general services.”
“Probably we can reduce the funding of the functions devolved to local governments. Imagine P117B. When (governors) went to see us, ang request nila sa 2020 budget P100B para makatikim ng SC ruling sa bagong IRA nila. Yet if we look at the funding for devolved functions of LGU, P117B na. But we cannot convert this into IRA kasi di P117B sa infra. They will be able to use only 20% of P117B. So I think further study should be made along this line.”
Violation of BARMM organic act?
There are local projects in BARMM to be implemented by the national government – a violation of Section 37 of the BARMM organic act. Lacson asked: “Bawal eh. So why are we doing it kung bawal? May autonomy. Why not let them implement their projects?”
In 2016, the Senate, through Sen. Lacson’s initiative, removed P8.3 billion from the DPWH budget that the House of Representatives took from the proposed budget of the ARMM. “It is just my concern, baka repetition ito ng P8B na ang nag-insert or nag-realign, mga congressmen,” Lacson said.
Remove P4B ‘lump sum’
Sen. Lacson pushed for the removal of a P4-billion ‘lump sum’ listed as ‘Other Financial Assistance to LGUs’ and handled by the DBM. He noted there is no list of LGUs that will benefit from the amount. “Anong gagawin natin sa P4B? If we’re appropriating P4B for we don’t know what, wala pa naman tayo sa period of amendments. So kung di kailangan yan, tanggalin natin.”
“Baka kasi lump sum walang paggagamitan, baka pwedeng itabi muna natin at pwede ma-realign to other worthwhile PAPs.” While the DBM handles the fund, it is not an implementing agency. The implementing agency for this is the DILG.
“But how could they implement that kung wala silang submission, walang listahan? In other words, these are lump sum appropriations.”
Lacson said he does not want a repeat of last year where the DBM, through then Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda, assured him it has a list of beneficiary LGUs, but actually had none – the DBM did not seek to draw up a list until July 2019. “So nadenggoy ako Mr President.”
“Meron akong professor noon sa Command and General Staff Course, naging Army Commanding General, si Gen Yap. Sabi niya tandaan nyo ito, kung kayo natapilok sa bato dalawang beses, ang tawag sa inyo hindi tanga, ugok. So I just don’t want a repetition of what happened last year,” Lacson added.
Meanwhile, Lacson noted the DILG is not aware of P2.489B in “assistance to cities.” He recalled asking Sec. Eduardo Ano, “Alam nyo ba ito?” and Ano answered in the negative. “Kung di nyo alam ito di nyo maimplement ito,” Lacson recalled telling Ano, who replied, “di nga po.”
P5B for National ID
Sen. Lacson sought to have the P5-billion allocation for the National Greening Program realigned for the National ID system. He noted the National ID system, which he championed in the Senate, needs at least P5.565 billion in 2020 to cover some 14 million Filipinos. The proposed 2020 budget presently allocates only P2.4 billion for it. The P2.4 billion can cover only 6.3 million Filipinos.
“Can you find a way to complete the requirement of P5.565B to cover 14 million Filipinos? This is a good investment, pang serbisyo publiko ito. It will expedite a lot of transactions. Even in the revenue collection, you can use this as a weapon,” Lacson told Senate finance committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara.
On the other hand, Lacson said the National Greening Program has been allocated more than P33 billion for the past eight years – including more than P5B for 2020 – yet, “we don’t see any greens in spite of the continuous appropriation of P33B.”
“Kung wala rin tayong makitang puno, diyan na lang ilagay sa National ID. Okay lang ba sa DBM i-realign natin ang P5B para pakinabangan sa National ID? It’s okay with the DBM secretary, okay with the economic team… Kasi mas magandang i-prioritize natin ang national ID system, mas worthwhile ang programa kesa National Greening Program na wala naman talagang green.”