‘Poor Planning’: Interpellation of the 2020 Budget of the DPWH

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In his interpellation of the 2020 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Sen. Lacson pointed out several questionable items, as he reiterated the national budget is “not a guessing game” and has to be studied painstakingly.



Opening Statement: Budget Not a Guessing Game:

Yesterday, House Deputy Speaker Villafuerte claimed in a TV interview that a P500M appropriation for a project vaguely described as Kennon Road was a case of typo error. Later in the day, he corrected himself and said he was actually referring to a P15M project request in Cagayan province.

Mr. President, how could he even know that? Those items are found in the NEP submitted by Malacanang to Congress after the President’s SONA in July, adopted by the HOR and transmitted to us here in the Senate.

The national budget, Mr. President, is not a guessing game. It can never be guesswork. It is to be studied painstakingly, scrutinized diligently. It takes a lot of hard work and even passion on our part and on the part of our staff before we even can understand what the National Budget is all about.


Noon at Ngayon: Following up Past Projects, Observations on Current Ones:

In his interpellation, Sen. Lacson followed up on the progress of earlier projects he questioned, including:

1. Sariaya Bypass Road, Quezon (P466.8M) πŸ‘‡

2. Road-widening at Ormoc-Baybay Southern Leyte Boundary Roads including ROW (P200M in 2018 GAA) πŸ‘‡

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3. Bypass and diversion roads in Cagayan de Oro City (P374M in 2018 GAA) πŸ‘‡

4. Jct Maramag-Maradugao Road; Jct Lampanusan Road Extension; Jct Sayre Highway/Damulog-Kibawe-Jct Buda (Sinuda), Damulog Section Package 3 including ROW in Bukidnon (P200M in 2018 GAA) πŸ‘‡

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5. Batangas City-San Pascual-Bauan Road including ROW (P578.81M in 2018 GAA) πŸ‘‡

6. Lipa City-Padre Garcia Diversion Road (P250M in 2018 GAA) πŸ‘‡

7. Eastern Interior Road, CDO (P281.5M in 2019 GAA) πŸ‘‡

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Sen. Lacson also made observations in projects to be funded in the 2020 budget, including:

1. Kennon Road: (P507M, incomplete description) πŸ‘‡

2. Jose Abad Santos Avenue (P156.6M, incomplete description) πŸ‘‡

3. Manila North Road (P150M, incomplete description) πŸ‘‡

4. Various roads in Quezon CIty (P276.711M) and Taguig City (P315M) πŸ‘‡

5. Roads in Ilocos Norte πŸ‘‡

6. Concreting of Roads in Pangasinan πŸ‘‡

7. Batan Island Circumferential Road in Albay πŸ‘‡

8. Desilting, declogging and dredging πŸ‘‡

9. Tulay ng Pangulo Para sa Kaunlarang Pang-Agraryo (P603.372M) πŸ‘‡

10. Requesting for improvement of a road in Cagayan (P15M) πŸ‘‡

11. Misplaced item? πŸ‘‡

12. Line items with ROW components πŸ‘‡

13. Sorsogon’s Flood Mitigation Structures: Completed in 2017 and 2018, but with allocation in 2019 GAA πŸ‘‡

14. Overlapping projects: Brgy Bagahanglad, San Jacinto, Masbate (2019 GAA) πŸ‘‡


Engineering Administrative Overhead (EAO):

Sen. Lacson questioned anew the Engineering Administrative Overhead costs involved in keeping funds in the DPWH central office. Last September, Lacson noted that for 2020, there would be potential savings of P870 million if the amounts for projects in the regions are directly downloaded to the district and regional offices concerned.

He cited a COA report indicating “various expenditures with an aggregate amount of P106M which are not directly related to pre-construction and implementation of projects were charged vs EAO funds.”

“Baka makatipid ang gobyerno ng hundreds of millions of pesos kung i-allocate na lang ang pondo sa regional or district para makatipid sa EAO. Malaki ang difference. When we talk of hundreds of millions or even billions worth of projects, papalo sa P100M ang EAO.”


Only 20% of RDC-Endorsed Projects Making it to DPWH Budget:

Lacson lamented that only 20% of projects endorsed by the Cordillera Administrative Region’s Regional Development Council made it to the DPWH’s budget for 2020. He said this can lead to a disconnect between the needs and priorities of the local government units and the national government.

“If we can only increase ang 80% from RDC and 20% ang hindi. Hindi ba mas maganda ang output na galing sa municipalities ang na-adopt ng national government? Kung impose natin from national government to local, baka di kailangan yan,” he said.

He added district representatives in the House of Representatives can participate in formulating the projects at the RDC level as they are members of the local development council. “Sila na mag-shepherd sa HOR ang sa LDP nila, hindi matatanggal. Hindi ang di sila makikialam, tapos pagdating sa Congress sila na lang mamimili.”

Lacson also raised the possible issue of unused appropriations in the case of a P507M item for “Kennon Road.” “Alam natin ang reality sa ground, especially ang reality sa Congress, Senate included, na may projects diyan na di ninyo talaga alam. Ang problema, kung di ninyo alam (dahil pinasok sa NEP via legislators), how can you efficiently implement it?” he asked the DPWH.


‘Perennial’ Right-of-Way Issues:

Sen. Lacson questioned the removal of the special provision in the budget bill that specifies a project cannot be implemented until its right-of-way (ROW) issues are settled. “Huwag tanggalin ang provision.”


* INTERVIEW: Need for Proper Planning:

In an interview with Senate media after the interpellation, Sen. Lacson said his overall impression was that “poor planning” was evident in the DPWH’s proposed budget. “Talagang dapat bago sa NEP, nakaplano nang husto. Kumpleto ang planning para hindi masasayang ang pera. Kasi pag poor planning, nagsa-suffer minsan implementation kaya ang nangyayari ang laki ng unused appropriations.”

“Di ba point out namin for 2018 ang sa budget, P257B ang hindi nagamit? That’s on account of poor planning and di nako-consult ang agency when some legislators submit their pet projects, di na-consult so di alam ng agency papaano i-implement.”

“Imagine sa Cagayan, nakalagay lang doon requesting. Obviously cut and paste yan. Wala pang approval pinondohan mo na ng P10M.”


Bagong Modus:

“Even during committee hearing, si Sec Villar was candid enough to admit ang iba riyan hindi namin alam kasi submitted ng congressmen. Binago na, kasi dati pagdating sa HOR saka nag-introduce ng amendments. Nakita namin rito. So nagbago sila ng tact, ang ginawa nila, sa NEP pa lang nagsa-submit na sila. I know this for a fact because I’ve been talking to some congressmen that long before NEP was submitted to Congress, tinatawag na nila ang agency heads and submit to them their pet projects. Ok lang yan as long as the agencies that will implement are able to prepare or plan. Ang problema kung di congruent sa needs ng agency, hindi nila implement yan.”

“Alam mo kalakaran diyan. Magsa-submit ng proyekto na alam nilang di kailangan dahil meron silang interest doon. Or ito ang sabi ng contractor na gusto niya gawin. Sometimes we are being supply-driven hindi needs- or priority-driven.”

“Di ba may bill we should reform the budgeting system? We need to empower LGUs to be responsive to their needs and priorities. Ang problema di naman lulusot sa Congress kasi ayaw nila ma-empower ang LGUs kasi mababawasan ang kanilang poder pagdating sa budget.”

“On the part of some people, deliberate, hindi honest. Imagine, P500M pagkalaki-laki tapos vague ang description tapos may doble-doble. Di lang Kennon Road. Tapos tulay na P500,000. Mag-construct ka ng tulay P500,000? Sabi ko nga baka pwede tingnan natin perspective ano itsura ng tulay. Di ba natatawa lang sila? Pag submit ng congressmen kasi pinatawag nila SPWH SBM ito ang gusto ng members namin na projects, may magagawa ang SPWH?”

“We really have to correct that. It is a policy issue we need to improve on.”


Double Appropriation, Overlapping items:

“Talagang bothersome yan. The same segment na nag-overlap na nga, pag submit nila sa budget bill, yun pa rin pinapapondohan uli. And then ang dapat ang na-save mong amount dahil nag-overlap isasauli dapat yan pero di naman nagbago ang amount. Bakit pareho pa rin?”

“May double appropriation kasi exactly the same project description pero magkahiwalay ang amount. Ang iba may overlapping. Ang iba, maraming issues. Pag sum total ang pera na makikita nating masasayang lang, malaki yan.”


No Pleasure:

“I take no pleasure in asking these questions, pero at the same time, parang I feel trabaho ko naman yan to not really expose but make it known to them na may tumitingin sa budget. Imagine kung walang ganyan, they will not even submit their errata. Ang problema roon, saan pupunta ang pera?”

“I try to be blind na lang kung saan. Basta I just stick to issues. Kung may issue isang proyekto, I bring it out without minding sino ang congressman dito. Lagi akong inaaway ng HOR pag may budget deliberation. And I am tired of quarreling with them, it consumes a lot of my energy. Mas maganda ang bulag na tayo, lalabas di kung anong district, and we don’t even care to find out sino congressman diyan. Issue na lang nilalabas namin.”

“Kaya ang premise ng tanong ko, I’m not blaming at all DPWH because there are some submissions beyond their control.”

“The ideal situation, I discussed this with Sen Angara, kaya ina-adopt ng national government ang submission ng RDCs na ang output galing sa LDCs, barangays, towns, cities, provincial. Ang nangyari, 20% lang ang in-adopt ng NG. Dapat lahat ng LDP kino-compile yan ang ma-reverse sana ang 80% i-adopt ang 20% di ma-adopt for some reason, siyempre vetting. Pero 20% lang ng RDC output lang ina-adopt ng national government.”

“So basically we can see the disconnect between needs and priorities of LGUs and National Budget itself kasi di responsive. Nag-submit ang munisipyo o probinsya, kinuha ang input ng barangay, yet di naman ma-carry sa national budget. Ang nangyari na lang, sa national budget kung sino ang congressmen na sabihin nating malapit sa kusina o magaling bumalimbing, yan ang nakakakuha ng malaking proyekto na walang coordination o consultation sa LGUs o districts they serve, constituents nila; and sa agencies mismo.”


Opportunity for corruption:

“Corruption will always be there. As long as there are corrupt people in government, corruption will stay. It is in the system kasi pinapayagan natin mag-submit basta ng maski anong project ang legislator na di kayang implement o kaya tingi-tingi ang pag-implement, for several reasons. Pwede may commission. Mapipilitan ang agency because every budget year, pag may investigation, they are being summoned. So may pressure.”


‘Gratifying work, but not done yet’:

“Gratifying na rin yan kasi may pinupuntahan din naman ang pinagpapaguran naming pag-aral sa budget. Kung dedma ng dedma di kami magkakasundo talaga.”

“Generally sa tingin ko I was able to achieve my objective, point out to them ito ang mga mali na pwede i-correct. Di natin sila madiktahan but sa akin it’s good enough na-realize nila laging may nagbabantay. That’s good enough.”