MANILA, Philippines – House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said that the P588-billion unprogrammed appropriations portion of the proposed 2023 national budget must be itemized, describing the fund as “588 billion shades of grey” because of lack of details.
The amount of the unprogrammed fund in the 2023 national budget is more than double of the current P251.6 billion unprogrammed fund.
The biggest portion of the unprogrammed fund is “support to foreign-assisted projects,” amounting to P380.6 billion. The second highest appropriation is “support for infrastructure projects and social programs,” worth P149.7 billion.
The other items are listed as follows:
- Budgetary support to Government-Owned and/or Controlled Corporations – P20.7 billion
- Public health emergency benefits and allowances for health care and non-health care workers – P19 billion
- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas equity infusion pursuant to RA 11211 – P10 billion
- AFP modernization program – P5 billion
- Payment of arrears of LTO-IT Service – P2 billion
- Risk management program – P1 billion
- Refund of the service development fee for the right to develop the Nampeidai Property in Tokyo, Japan – P210.6 million
- Prior years’ LGU shares – P14.6 million
“The spending amount being asked by the Palace is actually half-a-trillion pesos more,” the Batangas congressman said in a statement, citing the “oft-quoted” amount of P5.268 trillion.
Recto said P5.856 trillion is the ceiling of the proposed 2023 budget.
The unprogrammed appropriations may be used in specific cases of excess revenue collections, new revenue collections, and approved loans for foreign-assisted projects.
But Recto believes there is “lax compliance” on this, saying P122 billion in unprogrammed appropriations were released in 2020 when revenue collections were down due to the pandemic.
In another press release on Friday, September 2, Recto said the projects and programs to be funded under the unprogrammed appropriations can be publicly disclosed through the submission of a Budget Errata.
Pointing out the two largest items – support for foreign assisted projects and support for infrastructure projects and social programs – Recto said it’s “fair to assume” that the figures were based on actual requests that were scrutinized by the DBM.
“There is actually one template which the DBM can follow in itemizing the two UA lump sums. This is the meticulous listing of projects – nature, amount, location – in the proposed P22.9 billion Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) fund for 2023,” Recto said.
He said this template made of 45 pages of fine print “meets all disclosure standards.” – Loreben Tuquero/Rappler.com