Villar defends DPWH budget; Cayetano bares double appropriations in agency

The proposed 2023 P737.36- billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) underwent full scrutiny during a Senate budget deliberation with Senator Mark Villar giving his full support to the department and stressing the importance of giving the agency its needed budget to perform its duties and responsibilities.

But Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano bared the existence of double appropriations in the proposed DPWH budget amounting to P1.06-billion.

Cayetano said he found out that there is P28.162 billion as lump sums in the DPWH budget.

Villar, a former DPWH secretary during the Duterte administration, particularly cited the reduction of the agency’s maintenance fund which was cut from P24 billion to P11.3 billion.

"I just like to take this opportunity to manifest that if we want the service, if we want to experience the full capability of the DPWH, if we have the expectation that it will provide us the service, I think we should also reciprocate by giving them the budget that is needed," he said.

“Based on past experience, any reduction in this budget would lead to a lower service level for the department,” he added.

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said maintenance fund is allocated for the repair and rehabilitation of infrastructure facilities, maintenance of national roads and bridges, operation of weighbridge stations and its routine check-up.

Senator Robinhood "Robin" Padilla also appealed to the DPWH to help fix the roads in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) region to ensure its economic prosperity.

Padilla lamented the dilapidated roads in marginalized areas in the BARMM region. To illustrate his point, Padilla pointed out that motorists coming from Sultan Kudarat would have a smooth ride as the roads were already paved in the area.

However, this was not the case in his area in Maguindanao, according to the Senator.

“If we are going to follow the directives of President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos, Jr. to continue the programs under the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we have to work together to fix the roads in the area,” Padilla said in Filipino.

Cayetano cited two diversion road projects in Davao city with a budget of P105-million and P60-million but there were no description whether they are "Phase 1" or "Phase 2."

In Tacloban city, there are two flood control projects with the same project description but each had a budget of P115 million, he pointed out.

Cayetano also revealed that there are two multi-purpose buildings with two budgets where the biggest is in Sta. Maria, Davao Oriental at P50 million and P30 million.

He also said that there are double appropriations for what appears to be one road project, flood control projects and multi-purpose buildings in Quezon province, Las Pines city, Marikina City, Abra, Iloilo and Albay.

The former House Speaker asked why these things were able to escape the notice of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), particularly the double appropriations.

Angara, who is defending the Marcos administration’s P5.268-trillion national budget as chairman of the Senate finance committee, said he is giving the DPWH the chance to explain and scrutinize its budget.

Failure to do so would force his committee to reduce or realign the funds for these questioned project to other programs or government agencies.