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.
— 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.