February 25, 2018, 7:34 am
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ROW budget impasse resolved

THE impasse over the differences in the versions of the Senate and House of Representatives of the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 was broken yesterday after senators gave in to the request of congressmen to give up the huge cuts the senators made in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Rep. Karlo Nograles (PDP-Laban, Davao City), chair of the House appropriations committee, said the differences in the bicameral level were resolved last Tuesday.

“The good news is it (impasse) has been broken. Yesterday (Tuesday), we came into an agreement that the budget cuts that were done by the Senate, particularly on DPWH, will no longer push through based on our meetings, so that will not carry in the Bicameral Committee version,” he said.

Nograles said the bicam meetings on the 2018 budget are still ongoing “but we’re over the hump, so to speak.”

“We’re finalizing still but much of the P50.7-billion cut will be restored. So we’re looking at probably, maybe P4 billion to be cut,” he said.

The administration congressman said the differences were ironed out after the DPWH and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) gave their inputs to the lawmakers.

Nograles said the DBM and DPWH were able to thoroughly explain that a big part of the administration’s “Build Build Build” program, and cutting the DPWH’s budget “will really affect the infrastructure program of the DPWH and the administration.”

Senators had wanted to remove P50.7 billion from the DPWH’s P62.68-billion right-of-way (ROW) and civil works allocation but congressmen are against it since their projects will be affected in their districts.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier explained that the funding on the right-of-way “accounts for the huge unused appropriations” in the national budget because the allocations are unspent until the end of the year due to continued unresolved issues in the construction of roads.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even dared senators to just have this year’s P3.35-trillion budget reenacted if no agreement will be reached.

Nograles defended the right-of-way budget, saying it will be needed for every new road project that will affect settlers in the area.

“What Sen. Lacson wanted was, let’s do right of way without the civil works. The problem (with that) is we very well know that once you are able to get the settlers to relocate but they don’t see any infrastructure being done, then chances are those settlers will come back. And there might be even more,” he said.

The lawmaker added: “On the ground, right of way issues really have to be resolved while the project is being conducted. So it’s like a chicken and egg problem. If you don’t put the budget for right of way then you don’t have anything for the government to use in order for the settlers there to vacate.”

Lawmakers were also able to resolve the P900-million budget for the PNP’s “Oplan: Double Barrel,” which was approved by the House but was realigned by the senators for the housing projects of both the police and the military.

Lawmakers agreed to just adopt the Senate’s move to have the additional anti-drug campaign budget realigned to the housing budget of the PNP and AFP personnel.

Nograles said also included in the amendments to the budget is the P20-billion or more additional fund for the increase in the salaries of soldiers, policemen and other members of the uniformed service.
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