‘Conditions’ imposed on 2020 budget spending

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    BY RAYMOND AFRICA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said a “conditional implementation” of the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget will regulate the use and release of some P83 billion in last-minute insertions made by the House of Representatives even as President Duterte did not veto what could be considered as “pork” funds.

    Lacson said the Senate has provided the Department of Budget and Management a detailed list of the vague projects.

    “There is still what is called ‘conditional implementation’ which has the effect of a veto. It means DBM will not release the budget for line items deemed questionable or unimplementable due to their vagueness or lacking specifics,” Lacson said.

    “Having said that, I submitted to the DBM the list of such highly questionable line items and which DBM promised to consider withholding the release of their budget allocations. I have no reason to doubt Acting Sec. (Wendel) Avisado,” he said.

    President Duterte signed the 2020 General Appropriations Act on Monday.

    Lacson discovered the P83 billion worth of last minute insertions a few days before the money measure was signed and approved by the congressional bicameral conference committee last December 11.

    Seeming to have anticipated Lacson’s post-enactment reaction, Duterte imposed several conditions for the implementation of the budget law and the release of public funds during the signing ceremony for the 2020 GAA.

    The President, while not exercising his veto powers in signing Republic Act 11465, emphasized the need to faithfully comply with existing laws, policies, and rules and regulations for the effective and efficient utilization of the P4.1-trillion national budget.

    “I can never overemphasize my abhorrence of corruption, and so I have to make sure that the use of any single peso in this budget for personal gain will not be tolerated,” he said in his budget message – a copy of which was released by Malacañang only on Tuesday.

    CONDITIONAL
    IMPLEMENTATION

    Among the provisions in the GAA that he called attention to were the promotion and patronizing of locally-produced products and services which he said he supports but should still comply with existing procurement laws and rules so as not to unduly limit competition.
    The President also mentioned the budget provision on foreign travels of officials and employees of government which he said should be in adherence to Executive Order No. 77 that imposes a ban on junkets for government officials and employees, and mandates public servants to travel using economy class, and to use public modes of transportation on their travels.

    Duterte also called attention to the use and release of public funds for projects involving housing resettlements, education, feeding program, educational subsidies and tourism promotion, among others.

    On the use of the Quick Response Fund (QRF), the President highlighted that “it may not be used for pre-disaster activities” as QRFs are defined as “stand-by fund for relief and recovery programs in order that the situation and living conditions of people in communities or areas stricken by disasters, calamities, epidemics, or complex emergencies, may be normalized as quickly as possible”.

    “Special funds” in the budget that will be tapped on special circumstances like when giving rewards to members of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to encourage them to work hard and exceed their revenue targets can only be released if it has the approval of the Development Budget Coordination Committee.

    The President also placed the provision for “Unprogrammed Appropriations (UA)” under the conditional implementation and mandated concerned agencies to first fully exhaust funds appropriated to them “before they may be authorized to utilize the funds under the UA”.

    These UA include those placed in the “Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits,” “Pension and Gratuity,” “PNP Capability Enhancement Program,” “National Bureau of Investigation Modernization Program,” and the “Right-Of-Way Acquisition,” programs.

    To ensure transparency in the use of the funds for Marawi and other earthquake-damaged regions, the President said the release of funds for these programs will require his approval.

    “I place the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, Special Provision No. 3, Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, Volume I-B, page 560, and Special Provision No. 4, Comprehensive Aid to Repair Earthquake Damage (CARED) for Region Xl (Davao Region) and Region (SOCCSARGEN), Volume 1-8, pages 560561, under conditional implementation, to authorize the release of these funds upon my approval of the specific projects and appropriate implementing agencies or LGUs with the mandate and capability to implement the program or project concerned, including infrastructure projects,” he said.

    VAGUE PROJECTS

    Among the projects which Lacson considered as “vague and/or have no descriptions or no specific details” include repair/rehab of Road Network for the second district of Marikina City for P15 million, repair/rehab of Road Network in barangay Tumana also in the amount of P15 million, asphalt overlay of various roads in barangay North Fairview for P25 million, concreting/road widening of roads in Alaminos City, Pangasinan for P15 million, concreting/widening of a road in Tumauni, Isabela for P30 million, road construction in Apalit, Pampanga worth P18 million, construction of a road in Candaba, Pampanga for P22 million, road rehab in Balayan, Batangas for P10 million, road rehab in Lemery, Batangas for P10 million, rehab for a road in Nasugbu, Batangas for P10 million, and asphalt overlay in a road in Catbalogan City, Samar for P50 million.

    Lacson also questioned the uniform allocation of P60 million for flood control projects in Bacon district in Sorsogon, in barangay Gulang-Gulang in Irosin, Sorsogon; an upstream also in barangay Gulang-Gulang, Irosin; in barangay Osiao, Bacon district in Sorsogon; another upstream in barangay Gulan-Gulang in Irosin; in barangay San Antonio, Tabaco City, Albay; a left side upstream, again, in barangay Gulang-Gulang, Irosin, Sorsogon; Phase 2 of Mawab River in Compostela Valley; and in barangay Masarawang in Guinobatan, Albay.

    He said the last minute insertions were part of the billions of pesos worth of projects which were deleted during the deliberations for the proposed 2019 budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways.