SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday suggested that government revise its budget appropriation approach to lessen government’s exposure to foreign borrowings.
Lacson said that instead of the current “cash based” scheme, economic managers should resort to the “continuing appropriations” method especially since a number of agencies have low disbursement rates.
The senator recalled that during the first budget deliberations under the Duterte administration, the Department of Budget and Management gave specific instructions to government agencies to spend whatever budget they asked for or they standing losing the funds.
“Ibig sabihin, kung hindi mo magamit dapat hindi ka mabigyan ng pondo. Pero taon-taon bakit increase pa rin ng increase ang pondo ng department na historically and traditionally hindi makagamit ng tens of billions of pesos a year? (This means that if an agency cannot use the funds it should not be given funds. But every year the funding for a department still increases even if traditionally and historically it cannot use its tens of billions of pesos a year?)” Lacson said at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum.
“So, bakit pa tayo papasok sa cash-based, hindi na lang natin gawin dati na may continuing appropriations? Anyway ganoon din ang nangyayari (So, why will we continue with the cash-based system? Why don’t we just make it continuing appropriations?
Anyway, the same thing happens),” he added.
Lacson said the low disbursement rates of departments result to bigger loans that are not utilized properly. He added the top three government agencies with low disbursement rates include the departments of transportation, education, and public works and highways.
During the deliberations on the general principles of the 2020 proposed national budget, Lacson pointed out that the government borrows more than what it needs to spend.
For 2020, he noted the country is projected to borrow P897 billion “to fund a projected deficit of P677 billion.”
For the years 2018 and 2019, he said the country’s deficit was at P558 billion, while in 2017 it was at P350 billion.
“So nag-jump tayo ng kauutang, malaki na utang ng bansa natin, pumalo na tayo ng P7.9T. Ang sagot ng economic managers, they need to build up government’s cash position. Pero kung taon-taon nagbi-buildup tayo ng cash di ba dapat mababawasan ang uutangin natin kasi na-buildup na cash natin? (Our loans have already reached P7.9 trillion.
Economic managers said they need to build up government’s cash position. But if every year we build up cash, should our loans be decreasing because of our cash buildup?),” he asked.
Lacson said they need to cut the budgets of the DPWH, DoTR, and DepEd so the funds can go to worthwhile government projects like the Universal Health Care, the National ID system, and the Tertiary Education Subsidy for the Free College Education program.
He said they have yet to find out how much budget will slashed off each agency when they hold the period of amendments on Monday next week.
Lacson reiterated “pork” funds still exist in the General Appropriations Bill, including some P14 billion in the DPWH proposed budget which were in form of duplicative appropriations.
“Itong national budget, ito ang hide and seek ng matatanda. Hide sila nang hide, hanap naman kami nang hanap. Kung hindi makita okay lang, pero kapag nakita eh di huli…
Hanggang ngayon impossible dream. Hanggang ngayon laging may paraan… Kakamatayan ko na yata may pork pa rin. (This national budget can be likened to a hide and seek game of adults. They [congressmen] try to hide the pork but we keep on seeking for them. If we don’t see it [pork] it’s okay, but when we see it, that’s it… Up to now having a pork-free proposed national budget seems to be an impossible dream. I might already be dead but pork will still be present in the budget),” Lacson said.
Lacson said he will urge his colleagues in the Senate and their counterparts in the House of Representatives to submit their respective list of amendments so they can study what can be included or scrapped when they convene the bicameral conference committee which he said could be on Thursday (November 28) next week.
He repeated his proposal o make the bicameral discussions open to the public for transparency.