SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
House members expressed concern about the dire consequences of the P90-billion cut in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), especially on the implementation of the government's massive infrastructure program.
During the hearing Thursday of the House Committee on Appropriations on the DPWH proposed budget for 2019, panel Chairman Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) and other House Members expressed their concern about the lower budget of the DPWH for next year, which is an effect of the planned shift to a cash-based budgeting system in 2019.
The proposed P544.521 billion budget of DPWH for 2019 is lower by 14.63 percent or P90 billion than this year's budget of P637.864 billion.
Nograles pointed out that several programs had reduced or zero budgets for Tier 1 (ongoing projects), saying that Tier 1 budgets had never before been cut because they are used for ongoing projects.
"The fact remains that what was Tier 1, [the] P123.9 billion na proposal ng DPWH, dito sa cash-based, naging P65.5 [billion] na lang. Tier 2 na sinabmit ng DPWH sa DBM, ang Tier 2 priorities po nila was P528.1 billion. Ang lumabas na Tier 2 sa cash-based was P390 billion, including 'yung nalipat nila na dapat Tier 1, nilipat sa Tier 2," Nograles said.
Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) said the DPWH budget was unrealistic, and called on the Majority and Minority Members of the House to unite to restore and even augment the funds.
He stressed the role of infrastructure development in the growth of the country, especially in the face of the current administration's Build, Build, Build program.
"After assuring the Committee on Appropriations that the absorptive capacities of agencies, including the DPWH, have vastly improved during the first six months of 2018 and that DBM has also approved increased employment of DPWH personnel, there is absolutely no reason to inordinately reduce the budget of this department," Lagman said.
He further criticized the cash-based budgeting system, describing it as "budgetary calisthenics" and "prematurely enforced."
Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte) echoed such sentiment, saying the DPWH must be allowed to reclaim its budget.
Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur) said that obligation-based budgeting was successful in the fulfillment of numerous projects in the past years and wondered if the cash-based system can do the same.
"If we will see the normal procedure of the procurement system, 'di po ba pag October or November, that is the time wherein we start the bidding of the projects. Now after the project is bidded, we go through the process of post-evaluation. And most of the times and based on past experiences, na-award po natin ang project some time March or April na. After the awarding, nakaka-start po tayo nang May or June," Pimentel said.
"With this cash-based system, how does the DPWH plan to implement this? Eh kung ganun din po ang mangyayari na March pa tayo mag-a-award, then by December, mag-e-expire na 'yong pera. The money will be reverted. What will happen to the projects?" he added.
Rep. Celso Lobregat (1st District, Sulu) questioned how the Build, Build, Build program can continue in 2019 considering the DPWH allocations for capital outlay fell by P90 billion, thus becoming P523 billion.
DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said the DPWH will adjust its assumptions to comply with the new budgeting system
"It's definitely more challenging for the DPWH because we have to make sure our timelines are extremely accurate. We have to make sure that even our preparation for the projects are all on time, even the preparation for the projects is very meticulous. It's more challenging. It's not impossible, it's a different form of budgeting, and we will do our best to adjust to it," Villar said. / Czarina Engracia