Lacson: 200 districts have padded infra budgets

    Senator Ping Lacson (Photograb from Senate Press Conference stream)

    Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday night questioned the padded infrastructure allocation for more than 200 congressional districts in the proposed P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2021 that was approved by the House of Representatives before Congress went on Halloween break last month.

    Lacson said a scrutiny of the GAB showed excessive additions to the proposed budgets of majority of the country’s congressional districts as contained in the Malacañang-proposed 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

    The add-ons, the senator said, were integrated into the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), whose proposed budget for next year stands at P667.3 billion.

    Lacson refused to name names “because I want to focus on the issue at hand instead of the personalities involved” even as he reiterated a previous statement that the biggest additional allocation was for a congressional district in Davao, which got a P15.351-billion budget in the GAB, which is P5.677 billion higher than the NEP-proposed P9/67-billion.

    Another district had an infra allocation of P2.9 billion under the NEP but got a P5.016 billion in the GAB, and still another district was given an extra P3.963 billion by congressmen to top its P3.59 billion NEP appropriation.

    “Several districts got more than P1 billion, while the remaining districts got at least P620 million. The allocations per district amount to a total of P474,804,707,000. Remember when we questioned the P396 billion in lump sum appropriations, they came out with an addendum. But the addendum exceeded (the) P396 billion, it reached P474 billion,” Lacson said during the plenary deliberations on the DPWH proposed budget for next year.

    He said his office compared the House’s GAB against Malacañang’s NEP, which included a listing of 739 line-items for the construction of multi-purpose buildings as an addendum to the DPWH budget.

    “Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, all I can say is pity ourselves.  Those of us who may have individual insertions would look like barangay kagawads (councilors) compared to our (House) counterparts,” Lacson said.

    Also during his interpellation, Lacson questioned the double appropriations and overlapping projects in the DPWH budget proposal for the Coastal Bypass Road, Bago Aplaya Times Beach, Roxas Avenue projects in Davao City.

    Lacson said the projects had a total appropriation of P1.709 billion under page 200 of the voluminous GAB, but a thorough check of the budget measure would show a P4.449 billion entry in page 1041 also for the same projects.

    “It appears that it’s only one project. If we add… the total amount of duplicated projects would be P6.169 billion,” Lacson said.

    Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, finance committee chair, said that the DPWH explained that the P4.449 billion was tagged by the Department of Budget and Management as FLR or for later release “so they had to re-appropriate it for 2021.” “The P1.7 billion is a new appropriation and is not contained in the 2020 GAA (General Appropriations Act),” Angara said.

    Lacson said other projects that have double appropriations were the Major Mane to Kennon Road bypass road in Baguio City which involved two items having P50 million and P3 million; the Iguig bypass road in Cagayan which had one item with an amount of P1.91 million and another amounting to P50 million; the Balagtas flyover in Batangas City with P81.33 million and P85 million; construction of a multi-purpose building including site development in barangay Carmay East in Rosales, Pangasinan with appropriations of P127.5 million and P50 million; construction of a convention center in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental with P62 million and P112.377 million.

    He said there were also overlapping appropriations for various DPWH road projects, among them a stretch of the Surigao del Sur boundary-Davao Oriental coastal road and the Paco-Roxas-Arakan Valley junction Davao-Bukidnon road.