Se­nate to delete DPWH’s P75 bil­lion

Business World - - The Economy - Camille A. Aguinaldo

THE SE­NATE will move to delete the P75 bil­lion added to the bud­get of the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and High­ways (DPWH) with­out its prior knowl­edge when the cham­ber reaches the pe­riod of amend­ments in its de­lib­er­a­tions on the 2019 na­tional bud­get.

Sen­a­tor Pan­filo M. Lac­son on Mon­day ques­tioned the move of the Depart­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment (DBM) to pro­vide a P555 bil­lion bud­get to DPWH in the Na­tional Ex­pen­di­ture Pro­gram (NEP), which was later re­tained in the gen­eral ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill (GAB), when it ear­lier pro­vided a bud­get ceil­ing of only P480 bil­lion to the depart­ment.

The is­sue was first raised in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in De­cem­ber. At the Se­nate, the cham­ber de­lib­er­ated on the pro­posed P555.3 bil­lion bud­get of the DPWH on Mon­day.

“There was an agree­ment be­tween this rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the dis­tin­guished spon­sor and we need the com­ment of agency, the DPWH, that the P75 bil­lion that they have ad­mit­ted not know­ing un­til it was in­cluded in the NEP be deleted at the proper time dur­ing the pe­riod of amend­ments. The DPWH fam­ily is amenable to such move?” Mr. Lac­son asked.

Finance com­mit­tee chair Sen­a­tor Loren B. Le­garda, speak­ing for DPWH Sec­re­tary Mark A. Vil­lar, replied, “Yes. (Mr. Vil­lar) al­ready men­tioned it to me.”

Dur­ing the DPWH bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions, Ms. Le­garda said Mr. Vil­lar was only made aware of the bud­get in­crease when the NEP was sub­mit­ted to Congress. The DPWH then con­sulted with the DBM for de­tails on the ad­di­tional P75 bil­lion al­lo­ca­tion fol­low­ing the NEP sub­mis­sion, she added.

“How would they im­ple­ment the P75 bil­lion worth of projects if they did not know?” Mr. Lac­son said.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Franklin M. Drilon called the move an abuse of the ex­ec­u­tive branch’s dis­cre­tion or pre­rog­a­tive to de­cide on its pro­posed na­tional bud­get be­fore its sub­mis­sion to Congress.

“The ques­tion be­ing asked is how did this P75 bil­lion come about when pre­cisely the DPWH is in the dark as to how this came about? They have no idea what these projects are,” he said. “In other words, there is an in­di­ca­tion of abuse of that dis­cre­tion be­cause while in­deed it’s the Pres­i­dent’s bud­get, it is their pre­rog­a­tive but their pre­rog­a­tive can­not be ex­er­cised to the point of be­ing ar­bi­trary and that is what we see to­day,” he added. In re­sponse, Ms. Le­garda said the P75 bil­lion added to the DPWH bud­get was part of the bud­getary process.

“This is part of the bud­getary process... if there’s fis­cal space, it is the pre­rog­a­tive of DBM to in­crease the bud­get of an agency or to de­crease it as it so de­sires,” she said.

The pro­posed 2019 na­tional bud­get is cur­rently in the pe­riod of in­ter­pel­la­tions in the Se­nate. Aside from the DPWH, the Se­nate still has to scru­ti­nize the bud­get of nine gov­ern­ment agen­cies be­fore go­ing to the pe­riod of amend­ments. —

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