MANILA, Philippines – Commuters can expect a slew of new trains to ride in the coming years as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Thursday, September 5, it had allocated 98% of infrastructure budget for 2020 to the construction of railway projects.
The transport agency presented its proposed budget of P147 billion budget to the House committee on appropriations on Thursday, explaining the allocations for its four sectors: railway, road, maritime, and aviation.
Out of the P108-billion budget for infrastructure projects in the DOTr’s 2020 national expenditure program, P106.7 billion was allotted to the railway sector, in line with the administration’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. (READ: 2020 budget priorities: Infrastructure, social services, peace and security)
P6 billion was allocated for locally-funded projects, while P100 billion went to foreign-assisted projects.
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy Batan enumerated the ongoing foreign-assisted railway projects that will be utilizing the budget, including the following:
- North-South Commuter Railway Systems
- Metro Manila Subway Project Phase I
- MRT3 Rehabilitation Project
- Mindanao Railway Project
- Philippine National Railway South Long Haul Project
- LRT1 Cavite Extension Project
- Subic Clark Railway Project
However, while the railway sector got the bulk of the infrastructure budget, it still suffered a funding gap of P191 billion. The DOTr’s proposed budget for foreign-assisted projects was P291.7 billion, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P100.6 billion.
Thus, Batan pleaded for an increase, proposing to use the unprogrammed appropriations for foreign-assisted projects to fill in the funding gap.
These projects are mostly funded by official development assistance (ODA) lenders, namely the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Export-Import Bank of China, and the Asian Development Bank.
The aviation sector only had two infrastructure projects approved by the DBM, namely the Tuguegarao Airport and the Catbalogan Airport.
The maritime and road sectors have no approved infrastructure projects.
Thus, the agency asked for a budget augmentation of P2.9 billion to fund the priority projects in other sectors that were not approved by DBM.
Specifically, the agency needs an additional P865 million for aviation projects, P486 million for maritime projects, P1.5 billion for road projects, and P62 million for other railway projects, all amounting to P2.9 billion.
Among the cut or unfunded projects are:
- Night-rating of four airports
- Airport terminal building expansions
- West Philippine Sea port
- Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Hospital
- Centralized K-9 Academy under PCG; 252 new K-9 Dogs
- Maritime Industry Authority service posts in London and Japan
- Inter-agency Council on Traffic
- Davao High-Priority Bus System
- Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) modernization program
- Philippine Railway Institute
As a possible source of the requested augmentation, DOTr Undersecretary for Finance Garry de Guzman proposed to release the Road Board funds that are entitled to DOTr, which amounted to P11 billion. President Rodrigo Duterte abolished the Road Board in March 2019.
“So kung magkakaroon po tayo ng special provision sa General Appropriations Act (GAA), if possible, na ‘yung part of the unreleased allocation for DOTr in the Road Board funds be used to augment ito pong hinihingi po naming [halos] 3 billion, eh kayang-kaya pong i-cover,” De Guzman said.
(If we were to have a special provision in the GAA that part of the unreleased allocation for DOTR in the Road Board funds be used to augment the almost P3 billion we requested, then we would certainly be able to cover it.)
Lawmakers expressed support for the augmentation of DOTr’s budget, asking the DBM to revisit the priority projects that were cut from the transport agency’s budget. – Rappler.com