In his interpellation of the proposed 2021 budget of the DPWH, Sen. Lacson noted a “mangling” of the entire appropriations of the agency – totaling P666,474,289,000 – beyond recognition. “Hindi na natin makilala!”
QUOTES and NOTES:
Sen. Lacson recalled that during the budget briefing on general principles last Sept. 9, he asked DBM Sec. Wendel Avisado to clarify and provide details of the lump sum appropriations amounting to P396.45 billion lodged in the Central Office; along with reappropriations totaling P135 billion, consisting of 5,913 line items already listed in the 2020 GAA but have reappeared in the 2021 NEP bearing exactly the same technical descriptions but without proof of discontinuance, cancellations or abandonment.
“It appears that when DPWH belatedly submitted their NEP last Sept 7, what we see is a mangling of the entire appropriations of the agency in the total amount of P666,474,289,000 beyond recognition. Hindi na natin makilala.” Sen. Lacson remarked.
“Ang tanong ko lang and I just want a forthright answer. Did the late submission involve intervention from some legislators or was it entirely their own doing?” he added.
Sen. Lacson noted a “pattern” where the proposed budgets for national projects were decreased, and the proposed budgets for local projects were increased: Of the DPWH’s total P666.474B proposed budget, the budget for General Admin and Support went down by P477.138M (from P15.238B to 14.761B); while Support to Operations ballooned by P22.791B (from P38.133B to P60.925B).
Payments for Right-of-Way (ROW) also went up significantly by P24.033B (from P12.6B to P36.634B).
“What I noticed as a pattern kaya nagtanong ako kung may intervention ng some legislators, in general, ang nakita naming lumobo ang mga local projects. At ang malaking nabawas mga national projects… Ang napansin namin as a general observation, ang laking nabawas sa Build, Build, Build. Ang nadagdagan, puro local.”
Sen. Lacson noted funds for national roads and bridges were cut by more than P11B; while funds for local roads were increased. “So what happened? Pag may nakita kaming multipurpose buildings ang laki ng amount nasa P67B.”
“Ang theme ng 2021 budget is Reset, Rebound, Recover. I wonder how would multipurpose buildings contribute to the Reset, Rebound, Recover theme of the national budget. Ang tanong ko, what happened?”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lacson noted a decrease in funds for Asset Preservation amounting to P9.812B, from the initial P56.108B under NEP to P46.296B, as reflected in the DPWH’s submission Sept 7, at least as far as Congress is concerned.
He also noted a big increase in funds for coliseums and multi-purpose buildings. “Hindi ko nakikita paano MPB especially coliseums can contribute to ‘Reset, Rebound, Recover.‘”
On Network Development, Sen. Lacson noted a P21.4B decrease (from P131.448B in NEP to P109.992B in DPWH submission last Sept 7). “Ang laki ng epekto nito sa national devt, which I believe should be the focus of Reset, Rebound, Recover.”
On Convergence and Special Support, Sen. Lacson also noted a decrease of P8.428B for access roads leading to tourism destinations. “It doesn’t make sense na ang tourism tinamaan ng COVID, yan pa binawasan natin. How can we rebound and recover at least sa tourism sector kung babawasan natin Convergence and Special Support as program?”
“These are substantial, very significant variance ang nakita namin,” he added.
On the Bridge Program, Sen. Lacson noted a decrease of P6.549B.
“Each time titingnan namin for national development, ang laking nababawas. And then ang pumasok sa locally funded projects, yan ang sobrang dagdag. So parang nagkaroon ng imbalance and hindi in sync with the theme, ‘Reset, Rebound, Recover.'”
Sen. Lacson also asked the DPWH if it can utilize P3.634 billion, the amount it submitted for ROW in the 2021 NEP. “How sure are you that you can utilize P36.6B para sa appropriation sa RROW?”
Lacson also noted an elderly couple in Batangas, whose house was in the way of a DPWH road project, has yet to receive its ROW payment, and were being given the runaround. “I believe that’s a microcosm of what’s happening all over the country, ang may problema sa pag-claim nila. We’ve been discussing this since 2018, it’s now 2020 and we’re going to appropriation of 2021 di pa addressed ang problema ng mag-asawa, nakaharang ang kanilang bahay sa kalsada na ginawa ng DPWH.”
Sen. Lacson questioned why a budget for school building construction is lodged with the DPWH, when the DepEd also has a budget for it. “Parang magulo. DPWH din naman ang nag-i-implement sa school building program ng DepEd. Para di na lumobo budget ninyo, ilagay na lang sa DepEd ang naka-lodge sa DPWH, kayo rin naman mag-implement.”
Lacson suggested that for unity, all school building projects should be lodged with DepEd, with DPWH implementing. “Hindi magkahiwalay pa. It becomes confusing there’s a budget lodged with DPWH and another item, the same program na nasa DepEd naman.” DPWH Sec Villar agreed: “We can make the necessary adjustments. That is a very sensible observation.”
Sen. Lacson also questioned why MVUC allocations are to be given only to 40 districts.
“Parang selected districts lang daw ang nabigyan ng allocation ng MVUC, 40 districts out of so many districts all over the country, only 40 districts are bound to receive allocation from the MVUC. Kindly look into this.”
Potential Constitutional Issue on ‘Re-appropriations’:
Sen. Lacson sought a solution to avoid a possible constitutional infirmity involving 5,913 projects that were funded in the 2020 GAA but reappeared in the 2021 NEP. He cited jurisprudence (Araullo vs Aquino) stating that what can be realigned are savings from an item in the GAA. “If there’s no discontinuance, abandonment or completion, wala tayong savings na pwede i-realign.” He also suggested to issue discontinuance on projects that can still be discontinued “because they have not been obligated yet.”
“Kasi kung hiniram ang pondo from an already obligated project at humiram pa roon there’s no savings to speak of. That’s my concern … (O)nce the projects are already obligated and you will still borrow an incremental amount from that appropriated amount, you may have a problem,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lacson questioned “uniform” appropriations of P1M for at least 70 “multi-purpose” projects, but also made clear he sees nothing wrong with projects – even if these are congressional initiatives – that pass through the implementing agency. “Then I see no problem because they are properly vetted.”