Angara urges DBM to make airport modernization a priority in 2024 budget

Senator Sonny Angara on Tuesday, January 3 said he hopes the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will prioritize the modernization of the country’s airports following the New Year’s Day airspace shutdown fiasco at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Angara recalled Congress appropriated billions worth of funds to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for the procurement of new equipment and modernization of the country’s air traffic system.

“According to (Transportation) Secretary (Jaime) Bautista, we need to upgrade this,” said Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in a text message to reporters.

“I hope the DBM will prioritize this in the (upcoming) 2024 national budget,” he said.

“We, in Congress, had always been augmenting the budget of the CAAP,” he pointed out.

Former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, in a statement, said he hopes that Sen, Grace Poe’s Committee on Public Services, can look more deeply into the history of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) appropriations, especially on the CAAP.

Lacson made the remark following reports that former transportation secretary Arthur Tugade reportedly spent the P13-billion earmarked for the back up of air traffic control systems to beautification projects at the NAIA.

“Stupidity or greed? If reports are accurate that the budget appropriated by Congress for the setup of redundancies in the air traffic control system was diverted to some beautification projects at the NAIA, those responsible should spend their next holiday season in jail,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson pointed out that primarily, an appropriation “is a provision of law passed by Congress that must be followed by the implementing agency.”

“That being the premise, while I cannot speak for the present Congress, I used to grill concerned Executive Department officials on how they used the previous year's budget before approving their budget proposal - especially during the committee deliberations where we could directly question the heads of agencies concerned,” he stressed.

Prior to the committee hearings and plenary debates, the former lawmaker said he diligently reviewed and discussed with his staff both the proposed and past appropriations of major agencies “even as far back as three budget years, with emphasis on underutilization and misuse of public funds.”

“Incidentally, the DoTr is one of the departments with the worst underspending records, year in and year out. The P13-billion must have been part of their unspent appropriations declared as savings then realigned,” he pointed out.

“I hope Sen. Grace Poe’s committee can look more deeply into the history of that particular appropriation,” Lacson reiterated.