Excesses, inequalities in nat’l budget bill

Published November 23, 2020, 4:50 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The Senate has been going through the proposed P4.5-trillion General Appropriation Bill for 2021 approved last month by the House of Representatives.  The Senate  will approve its own  National Appropriation Bill  which will then be consolidated by a Bicameral   Conference Committee  into the final Congress-approved bill for  signing by  President Duterte in December.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has long been known for years  for   his close scrutiny of national budget bills. He has now come out with  findings that the bill approved by the House contains some  duplications along with so many  seeming  inequalities   favoring some legislative districts.

Among them:

— A congressional district in Davao  has a budget of P15.35 billion for public works, so much more than the original  P9.67 billion  proposed by the National Expenditure Program  (NEP)  of Malacanang.

— Another district had  P2.9 billion  originally proposed by  Malacanang.  It ended up with  P5.06 billion, in the House bill

— Still another  district  had  P3.59 billion in the original  Malacanang bill.  It got an additional P3.963 billion.

— Several  other districts received additional P1 billion each for public works.  Many other districts got P20 million.

The allocations for  public works in all the districts  under the original Malacanang bill totaled  P3.59 billion.  An extra P3.96 billion was added by the congressmen. The additional amount was for 739 line items  of building projects  that were added to the DPWH budget.

Senator Lacson also noted that many projects  had double appropriations.  The proposed Coastal Bypass Road,  the Bago  Aplaya  Times Beach, and the Roxas Avenue  projects  in Davao City had P1.709 billion on Page 200 of the General Appropriation Bill, Lacson said, but were  also allocated   P4.449 billion on Page 1041.

There  are  bound to be some discrepancies in such a  voiuminous document as the  National Appropriation Bill, so that some projects may be listed twice  in separate parts of the bill.  Some districts may  truly  be  in  great need of  some projects and thus have bigger – but, hopefully, not excessive – amounts.

The  Senate  is  now  in the process of drafting its own National Appropriation Bill.  A Bicameral Conference  Committee  will then meet to reconcile any differences and come  up with the final  bill which will be signed by President Duterte in time for it be ready to fund  public works projects as early  as  January.

The final  bill, we hope,  will no longer contain the gross inequalities and excesses  found by Senator Lacson.