Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Wednesday said the proposed 2021 P666.4-billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) appears to have been mangled beyond recognition.
“Di na natin makilala. Ang tanong ko lang (We don’t know what shape it is now. My question is…) and I just want a forthright answer, did the late submission involve intervention from some legislators or was it entirely their own doing?” Lacson asked Secretary Mark A. Villar during a Senate public hearing on the DPWH budget.
Lacson, an anti-pork barrel advocate, did not get a straight answer from Villar.
Instead, Villar said: ‘’The ceiling was given to us the deadline was (Sept.) 17. The ceiling was given 16th, the day before. I spoke with DBM (Department of Budget and Management) requesting, we would not be able to physically finish it in a single day.’’
‘’For compromise, we would submit a detailed annex that would basically give the details of the budget. That’s what happened. Basically the ceiling was given at a date very close to the actual printing which rendered us unable to give details in such a short time,’’ he added.
Lacson explained that during the budget briefing on general principles last Sept. 9, he asked the DBM Secretary to clarify and provide details of the lump sum appropriations under DPWH in the total amount of P396.45 billion lodged in the Central Office, as well as re-appropriations totaling P135 billion consisting of 5,913 line items already listed in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) but have reappeared in the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) bearing exactly the same technical descriptions but without proof of discontinuance, cancellations or abandonment.
He recalled DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado stating that he would coordinate with Villar and submit what is necessary in compliance and in accordance with their observation.
‘’It appears that when DPWH belatedly submitted their NEP last Sept. 7, what we see is a mangling of the entire appropriations of the agency in the total amount of P666,474,289,000 beyond recognition,’’ Lacson said.
Lacson also discovered that the DPWH reduced by P11 billion its budget for national roads and bridges and also cut by P8.4 billion its allocation for tourism-oriented roads.
He noted that the NEP has P176 billion allocated to local government projects that included roads and multi-purpose buildings but this rose to P229 billion after the DPWH asked for an additional of almost P53 billion.
The DPWH reportedly set aside P67 billion for multi-purpose halls in the midst of the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic.