Cayetano: House unlikely to reinstate billions of district funds in 2020 budget

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Tuesday, September 10,  that it would be unlikely for the House of Representatives to reinstate in full the P95-billion infrastructure funds that were vetoed in this year’s General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Cayetano made the statement when asked about the status of the ongoing negotiations among lawmakers who want to reinstate in the 2020 budget the multi-billion funds under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that President Rodrigo Duterte previously struck down due to anomalies.

“This is a problem that we just have to be honest with the congressmen, that it might not be solveable in this budget,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview.  

The Speaker echoed House committee on appropriations chairman Isidro Ungab, as Cayetano urged legislators to be “patient” as their budgetary demands would mean taking budget allocations from other government programs.

Still, the House leadership is moving to find a way to accommodate some of the lawmakers' requests for additional funds.

Cayetano said House committee on appropriations vice chairpersons Paul Daza and Romeo Momo Sr have been tasked to coordinate with the legislators concerned and the DPWH to determine the priority projects per district that truly need additional funding. 

“It’s very difficult to promise them anything now kasi halimbawa, kung ‘yung DPWH nag-uusap pa lang for 2021 ng budget. Sabihin mo i-input mo ‘yuong P60 billion. May possibility na a part of that or a big part of that maipasok nila. Pero ngayon na nakalatag na, saan mo ibabawas ‘yong P60 billion para ipasok doon? Sa ibang departamento, same department, etc,” said Cayetano. 

(It's very difficult to promise them anything now because for example, the DPWH is currently talking about the 2020 budget.  If you tell them to input the P60 billion, there's a possibility that a big part of that amount would be included. But now that the budget has been laid out, where would you get the P60 billion that you want to insert? You would have to take money from other departments, the same department, etc.)

While Cayetano said lawmakers want to to allocate funds for P60 billion worth of public works projects, Ungab previously pegged the number to be as high as P70 billion to P90 billion.

Most of these funds that lawmakers want to bring back are from the P95.3 billion worth of allocations under the DPWH that Duterte vetoed in the 2019 budget.

Multiple accusations of illegal budget insertions hounded the 2019 budget, causing a months-long delay in its passage and leading to the government reenacting the 2018 budget in the first quarter of 2019. 

Duterte was able to approve the 2019 budget only in April, but he made sure to veto the controversial multibillion-peso funds under DPWH. 

The government's economic team said the delay in resolving the budget impasse in the first quarter of 2019 hurt the government's poverty reduction efforts and kept around 420,000 Filipinos poor. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the proposed P4.1-trillion budget reached the House plenary, where legislators were  expected to introduce amendments to the 2020 GAB.

Cayetano said legislators would be augmenting the funds of the Department of Agricutlure to benefit rice farmers. They also plan to create a Camp Development Fund to benefit the military and the police. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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