By Nonoy Lacson
ZAMBOANGA CITY – House members expressed concern about the dire consequences of the P90-billion cut in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), especially on the implementation of the government’s massive infrastructure program.
House Committee on Appropriations on the DPWH proposed budget for 2019, panel Vice-Chairman Rep. Celso Lobregat and other House Members expressed their concern about the lower budget of the DPWH for next year, which is an effect of the planned shift to a cash-based budgeting system in 2019.
The proposed P544.521 billion budget of DPWH for 2019 is lower by 14.63 percent or P90 billion than this year’s budget of P637.864 billion.
Lobregat pointed out that several programs had reduced or zero budgets for Tier 1 (ongoing projects), saying that Tier 1 budgets had never before been cut because they are used for ongoing projects.
Rep. Lobregat also questioned how the Build, Build, Build program can continue in 2019 considering the DPWH allocations for capital outlay fell by P90 billion, thus becoming P523 billion.
Under the said program, DPWH will have to adjust its assumptions to comply with the new budgeting system.
“It’s definitely more challenging for the DPWH because they have to make sure that their timelines are extremely accurate. They have to make sure that even the preparation for the projects are all on time, even the preparation for the projects is very meticulous. It’s more challenging for them to do their job, they have to adjust,” Lobregat said.
He stressed the role of infrastructure development in the growth of the country, especially in the face of the current administration’s Build, Build, Build program.
“After assuring the Committee on Appropriations that the absorptive capacities of agencies, including the DPWH, have vastly improved during the first six months of 2018 and that DBM has also approved increased employment of DPWH personnel, there is absolutely no reason to inordinately reduce the budget of this department,” Lobregat said.
He further criticized the cash-based budgeting system, describing it as “budgetary calisthenics” and “prematurely enforced.”
The solon said that obligation-based budgeting was successful in the fulfillment of numerous projects in the past years and wondered if the cash-based system can do the same.