DPWH wants 39% budget hike for 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Public Works and Highways is seeking a budget worth P287.86 billion ($6.62 billion) for 2015, 39% higher than its P206.63 billion ($4.7 billion) budget in 2014.  

After all, DPWH has been making its spending more efficient over the past 3 years, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said during the budget hearing of the House committee on appropriations Tuesday, August 12.  

According to Singson, DPWH was able to obligate or use 70% of its allotted budget in 2011, 79% in 2012, and 91% in 2013.  

Singson said the more efficient use of savings helped DPWH improve its performance. 

But with the Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) prohibiting Malacañang from declaring savings before the end of the year, Singson said DPWH has become cautious on how to spend its savings. 

For 2014, DPWH already has savings of P6 billion (P136.7 million) from bids that have been awarded early in the year. Singson said they get an average of P6 billion to P7 billion in savings each year.  

"Members of Congress should consider that in the case of infrastructure, as soon as we finish bidding, we can already identify savings and if we're not allowed to use savings until December, we don't think we can properly utilize them," Singson said.  

Following the SC decision declaring 3 schemes under the government's controversial spending program as unconstitutional, Malacañang and some lawmakers have moved to redefine what would constitute as savings

Set guidelines

One of the proposals is to allow departments to declare savings even before the year ends while prohibiting agencies from carrying over unused funds for the next year.  

This proposal would benefit agencies like the DPWH, Singson said. 

"We are not going to hit beyond 91% unless Congress adopts certain measures to allow us to utilize savings in a timely manner," Singson said.   

"You know that we are ready to award projects as early as January. As soon as the budget is approved, we can award. As soon as we give out the awards, we can identify the savings already from the bids alone," he added. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, however, said the improving performance of DPWH shows there is no need to redefine savings since they have utilized the same savings mechanism in previous General Appropriation Acts toward this end. 

Singson, however, said it would help for Congress to set parameters to avoid legal challenges. 

"The question is, what can we use?" Singson said. "This P6 billion under the care of DPWH, under the decision of the Supreme Court, if the project is not yet finished, can we use this already or not?"

Once bids have been awarded, Singson said DPWH is unlikely to make adjustments to the original budget for the project.  

Mindanao gets biggest share 

Of the P287.86 billion ($6.62 billion) proposed budget of DPWH, a large bulk will go to capital outlay at 93.7% or P269.7 billion ($6.15 billion).  

Mindanao will get the biggest share of the pie at P63.13 billion ($1.43 billion) or 29.5% of the P213.85 billion ($4.88 billion) capital outlay budget for Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. 

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said he supports the passage of the DPWH budget "one hundred percent."

Other areas will get the following amounts: 

The capital outlay budget for the Visayas, which bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) in 2013, is separate from the rehabilitation fund for affected areas. Rappler.com

$1 = P43.87