Pork barrel restored?

September 19, 2018
Rolando Andaya Jr.

Issue of ‘pork’ insertions delays 2019 budget discussion.

THE deliberations on the proposed 2019 national budget was stalled again yesterday after solons failed to resolve the issue of alleged insertions amounting to P55 billion.

At the session yesterday the solons set aside the proposed P3.757 trillion budget and instead discussed other pending measures like House Bill 8165 or An Act Creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

Back on track.

However, to put the deliberations on the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget back on track, the House of Representatives was constituted into a committee of the whole.

Chaired by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., the committee yesterday set aside the committee report earlier submitted by the committee on appropriations. Instead the committee of the whole will introduce its own version of the budget.

This is the first time that the House convened the committee of the whole for budget deliberations.

Among the first amendments are the budget allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the construction or improvement of roads, bridges, water supplies and other capital outlay.

A total of P51.792 billion was realigned to various projects of different government agencies.

The committee proposed the removal of some projects allocated to different regions and then realigned them as follows:  Department of Education Tech-Voc laboratory (P3 billion);  Department of Agriculture farm to market road (P5 billion); State Universities and Colleges capital outlay (P1.2 billion); Department of Health for human resources and health facilities (P3 billion each); DPWH access to tourism destination (P10 billion); DPWH improvement of access road to trade industries and ecozones (P10.792 billion); DPWH construction of bridges to decongest traffic (P10 billion) and NDRRMC capital outlay (P5 billion).

The said P51.7 billion is the suspected insertions supposed to be given to the districts of favored solons.

Some solons are blaming the Committee on Appropriations for allowing the budget insertions as part of the committee report.

Floor sponsorship of House Bill 8169 or the 2019 General Appropriations Act was cancelled for the second day yesterday as former president now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the solons to resolve the issue.

The move now called “pork parking” grants some favored solons (both districts and party-lists) infrastructure allocations ranging from P500 million to as much as P5 billion.

During the meeting on Monday, Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. questioned chairman of the appropriations committee Karlo Alexei Nograles about the P55 billion insertions.

Nograles denied the insertions or pork barrel but said the P55-billion allocations are for legitimate projects that would benefit the people especially in the rural areas.

According to Andaya, a number of congressmen gone to the Speaker’s office to reveal the huge infrastructure funds and activities in their districts of which they were not aware.

Andaya said they discovered that it was also done last year.

“We are on the process of looking for these so-called P55 billion na yan. Trillion na yung budget natin so medyo matagal-tagal na himayin yan,”  Andaya said in a press conference.

Nevertheless, Andaya assured Malacanang that there will be no cuts in its proposed national budget.