Palace: No need to worry after P75 billion removed from proposed public works budget

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2019 03:47 PM

Public works maintenance workers clean up a portion of an underpass in Manila, October 13, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday said there was no need to worry even after the Senate deleted some P75 billion allegedly inserted into the Department of Public Works and Highways' (DPWH) proposed budget for 2019.

The P75-billion budget for the DPWH has been the subject of a feud between Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.

Andaya had alleged that Diokno, without the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte or Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, “inserted” the amount into the National Expenditure Program (NEP) which the executive branch submitted to Congress for deliberations.

Diokno said the President and Villar were informed of the augmentation, adding that the increase was made to fulfill the government’s commitment to spend at least 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product for infrastructure.

On Monday, senators adopted a motion that Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised to remove the allocation in their version of the proposed budget, allowing it to be discussed further in the bicameral meeting.

Lawmakers failed to approve the P3.7-trillion budget for 2019 before their Christmas break due to supposed insertions by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the presence of discretionary funds. The government is currently running on a reenacted appropriation plan.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the executive branch can be “creative” in finding ways to get the deleted appropriation, such as seeking a supplemental budget from Congress.

“There are many ways. The executive is very creative. Kung kulang, puwede namang magdagdag ng appropriation. May supplemental budget naman (If it's not enough, we can add appropriation. We have a supplemental budget). Basta for the good of the country, every branch should cooperate,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

The DPWH last year proposed a P651-billion budget to the Development Budget Coordination Committee, but the DBM replied with a “budget ceiling” of P480 billion for the agency.

In the NEP, its allocation went up to P555 billion, bearing an additional P75 billion.

During Monday's Senate session, Lacson questioned Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, what the additional P75 billion was for.

Legarda said Villar, the public works secretary, was only made aware of the increase in the agency's proposed budget after the question hour at the House of Representatives.

She said the agency submitted a P651-billion proposal but the DBM turned this down because of the government's “cash-based budgeting.” 

Under the cash-based budget, goods and services will be delivered and paid for in the same fiscal year.

Legarda said projects to be covered by the P75-billion fund are already existing, although she failed to identify them one by one. 

- with Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News