Not even the pandemic and its crippling effects could stop the greed of some lawmakers as they toyed around with the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson lamented Friday.
Lacson said this after the bicameral report on the budget showed not only manipulations in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget, but also cuts in the budgets of other departments previously approved under the Senate and House versions of the budget bill.
“Congress bicameral committee report: P83.87B of DPWH infra projects migrated to new areas while appropriations worth P55.52B disappeared. As if it wasn’t enough to satisfy their greed, they cut the budgets of other departments by P28.35B. Story of our lives,” he said on his Twitter account.
“These realignments being capricious and arbitrary on the part of the bicameral conference committee members, they did not involve proper planning by the DPWH. This explains why, as I have pointed out in my interpellation last Wednesday, year in and year out, DPWH suffers one of the lowest budget utilization rates with an annual average of P82 billion from 2011 to 2018 and even lower average disbursement rate since 2017,” he added.
Parehong malamya ang paggastos sa kasalukuyang taon pero mas malaki ang dagdag sa pondo ng Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) kumpara sa Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) para sa 2021.
Bukod sa nabanggit na situwasyon, binanggit pa ni Senador Panfilo Lacson, vice chairman ng Senate Committee on Finance na marami ring kuwestiyonable at nasasayang lamang na pondo ang DPWH pero dinagdagan pa ng P28.348 bilyon ng bicameral panel ang badyet nito para sa papasok na taon.
Ang DICT na lubhang nangangailangan ng gastusin para sa national broadband program upang makatipid ang mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan sa bayarin sa serbisyong na mula sa pribadong sektor ay kulang-kulang P1 bilyon lamang ang idinagdag.
One department with a track record of underspending and questionable, wasteful projects may be getting an added P28.348 billion, while another department implementing a much-needed national broadband program is getting a “useless” increase of less than P1 billion in the 2021 budget.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson thus lamented on Wednesday evening the 2021 budgets of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Information and Communications Technology, after they went through the bicameral conference committee.
“As it is, at P666.474 billion as proposed under the National Expenditure Program, and we actually base this on the historical data I mentioned, we can immediately see that P82 billion cannot be used. And here we are further increasing the budget of DPWH by P28 billion… We should learn our lessons from that data,” Lacson said in his interpellation of the bicameral conference committee report of the 2021 budget.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson renewed his call to fellow lawmakers for transparency, “particularly our amendments in the 2021 budget bill.”
Lacson stressed transparency is crucial to dispel suspicions of “compromises and personal interests in our proposed amendments.”
“If we have nothing to hide, we have to make our amendments public, as I have done in my case, so those amendments can be scrutinized by the media as well as the public. It is the mandate of Congress to make amendments to the budget bill; we cannot just adopt the National Expenditure Program in toto,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio Friday evening.
Isinusulong ni Senador Panfilo Lacson ang pag-amyenda sa ilang nilalaman ng P4.5 trilyon na gastusin para sa susunod na taon, upang pondohan ang mga programang tutugon sa epekto ng COVID-19.
Ayon kay Lacson, kailangang masigurado ang pondo para sa pagbangon ng mga sektor ng kalusugan at ekonomiya bunga ng pagkalugmok na inabot ng mga ito sa mahabang panahon ng pananalasa sa bansa ng nabanggit na pandemya.
“First things first. We should first address the pandemic and its effects: Health issues, development, recovery of the economy. Those are what we need to address in the 2021 budget,” paliwanag ni Lacson sa panayam sa ABS-CBN News Channel.
“I want the budget to be responsive to the sign of the times. I want it to be responsive to the budget philosophy of Reset, Rebound, Recover. These are what we need for 2021. Not the multi-purpose buildings, not the double appropriations, not the right-of-way payments that cannot be accomplished anyway,” dagdag ng mambabatas.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on Wednesday bared details of proposed amendments to the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill to make sure it is responsive to the sign of the times.
Lacson said these proposed amendments include augmenting the budgets to ensure health, development and economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, Lacson said he is open to passing a special budget or special law like the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to allow the President to realign funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
“I want the budget to be responsive to the sign of the times. I want it to be responsive to the budget philosophy of Reset, Rebound, Recover. These are what we need for 2021. Not the multi-purpose buildings, not the double appropriations, not the right-of-way payments that cannot be accomplished anyway,” he said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.
“First things first. We should first address the pandemic and its effects: Health issues, development, recovery of the economy. Those are what we need to address in the 2021 budget,” he added.
Sen. Lacson sponsored the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology amounting to P14,139,746,000, and reiterated his call to augment funding for the National Broadband Program. “I have repeatedly appealed to our colleagues to support the NBP (because) this is the new normal. Lahat umaasa sa Internet connection including DepEd, SUCs, and practically all government agencies. If we complete the funding requirements by augmenting the necessary amount, we will have a very efficient internet service available to all government agencies, including LGUs.”
It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management says at least P1.5 billion is needed to set up the department. That does not yet include added salaries, capital outlay like office facilities, furniture, vehicles, MOOE, and CIF.
During the first public hearing last January, no less than the stakeholders who served as resource persons also cited concerns about creating a new department for disaster and risk reduction:
First, there is a policy direction for right-sizing the bureaucracy that is already bloated.
Second, the implementation especially of recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out not by the proposed new department but by existing agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.
Third, we can see that the newly created departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development cannot be properly funded, or at least are not given the appropriate funding to work properly.
Having said that, a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize the concerned government agencies before, during and after calamities both natural and man-made – from policy-making and planning all the way to implementation – would do the job with much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel. In contrast, a council-type organization like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has a very limited capability mainly because it is merely coordinative.
In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* P1-M ‘uniform’ appropriations for at least 42 congressional districts in DPWH’s 2021 budget
* need to prioritize vaccines, R&D in 2021 budget