MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday, November 6, said that items under the unprogrammed funds of the proposed 2020 national budget should be made public.
In a statement on Wednesday, Recto said that the P216.3 billion lodged under the unprogrammed appropriations in the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP), which was crafted by the Department of Budget and Managament, were not added to the total amount of the budget.
He said that the proposed national budget for next year is actually higher because of the unprogrammed funds, making the total budget worth P4.316 trillion, instead of the widely-reported amount of P4.1 trillion.
"Barely discussed in this year's budget preparation season is how the UA have been on steroids. In just two years, it has grown in Incredible Hulk-like proportions and speed," Recto said.
Unprogrammed appropriations are funds that are on "standby" and can only be used under the following conditions:
Under the national budget crafted by the Aquino administration, unprogrammed appropriations amounted to P67.5 billion in 2016 and 2017. It hiked a bit to P75.3 billion in 2018 under the Duterte administration, and more than doubled to P197.1 billion in 2019.
In a span of 3 years, the amount had tripled to P216 billion for 2020.
The problem with unprogrammed appropriations, Recto said, is that items under this section does not have enough details for it to be scrutinized thoroughly.
"The UA is also plagued by lack of transparency. It is not your ideal itemized section of the budget. Rather, large amounts are placed in generic boxes whose specifics lack elaboration," Recto said.
The biggest item under unprogrammed appropriations is the support to foreign-assisted projects at P90.4 billion, followed by the budgetary support to government-owned and controlled corporations at P61.9 billion.
According to Recto, he was "able to pry from the executive" what would be funded by these allocations. He found out two big-ticket items from the list:
"My point is that these particulars should be openly declared in the NEP, and not swept under innocuously-worded headings," Recto said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara is set to sponsor the Senate version of the budget bill on November 11.
When the budget bill hurdles the Senate, senators and congressmen will convene for the bicameral conference committee to iron out the differences in their versions of the measure. – Rappler.com