MANILA, Philippines – Amid outcry from fellow legislators, Senator Panfilo Lacson is standing by the more than P50-billion budget cut in the 2018 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways due to right-of-way issues.
Lacson said he is “very confident” that he can justify the huge cut, which he first proposed and was then approved by the Senate during the period of amendments. Lacson had repeatedly said that the DPWH is among the top agencies where politicians insert and park “pork barrel.”
Lacson was reacting to the comments made by House appropriations chair and Davao City 1st District Karlo Nograles and Senator Cynthia Villar, mother of DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.
Nograles said he was surprised that a big amount was slashed which could affect the Duterte administration’s “build, build, build” program while Villar said Lacson cut “a lot of things” even without right-of-way issues.
“I am very confident that I can justify the cut that I proposed and which was approved in plenary. I just hope we will stick to the issue at hand instead of misleading the public,” Lacson told reporters in a message.
Lacson also hit Villar for now contradicting what she earlier said. Lacson said that during budget deliberations, it was the lady senator who said that the DPWH has huge underspending because legislators have many insertions involving ROW.
“Si Senator Villar pa nga mismo nagmanifest sa floor noong plenary deliberations namin on the DPWH budget na kaya raw malaki lagi underspending ng ahensya, kasi ang mga politiko daw, insert ng insert ng budget para sa road projects eh hindi pa naman daw settled ang ROW problems kasi hindi nga daw makakapagsimula ang civil works ‘pag unresolved pa ang ROW. Ngayon, siya mismo kumokontra sa sinabi niya,” Lacson said.
(It was Senator Villar who even manifested on the floor during plenary deliberations on the DPWH budget that the DPWH has big underspending because politicians keep on inserting budget for road projects even if the ROW problems are not yet settled. Now, she’s the one contradicting her statements.)
In October, Senator Villar said the DPWH has been underspending because the agency and politicians seek allocations for ROWs and construction projects simultaneously, when it is mandatory that ROWs should be settled first before any construction can start.
Villar, after the first session of the bicamercal conference committee on Thursday, said the DPWH and Lacson have a “misunderstanding.” Lacson refuted this.
Lacson said they have asked the DPWH to itemize the ROW and civil works cost since October, during the budget deliberations in the Senate. He also said there is a law that mandates that ROW issues be settled first before any construction could and should start.
“Sila lang nagsasabi noon (They are the only ones saying that). The fact is, there is no misunderstanding. In fact, the law is restated under Special Provision No 10 in the 2017 GAA and repeated under Special Provision No 12 in the 2018 General Appropriations bill now undergoing bicameral conference,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the DPWH has only disaggregated P11.38 billion where they submitted a list of ROW claimants. Other than that, the senator said the agency “failed to justify the rest.”
“Save for P11.38 billion where they submitted a list of ROW claimants, they failed to justify the rest of the P62.1 billion, leaving P50.7 billion from the P62.68 billion. This is in addition to another P18.389 billion that they failed to disaggregate up to this date,” Lacson said.
It was not the first time Lacson has called for the removal of billions of funds from the DPWH allocation. In 2016, he moved for the removal of the P8.3-billion pork-like insertions in the agency budget.
The fund was originally meant for projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But Lacson and other senators said its inclusion in the DPWH budget violates Republic Act No 9054 or the Organic Act for the ARMM. The amount was reallocated to free college tuition.
During the October debates, Lacson also grilled the DPWH over the supposed overpricing of a short portion of a national road in Nueva Ecija. (READ: P900M for 100-meter road? Lacson hits DPWH for alleged overpricing) – Rappler.com