Underspending still plagues government
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Under fire for the traffic problems that continue to beset the country, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has spent only 18 percent of its P55-billion budget as of June this year, Sen. Loren Legarda bared yesterday.

Legarda lamented underspending continues to plague government agencies over a year since the Duterte administration assumed office, affecting the delivery of assistance to the poor and implementation of vital infrastructure projects.

The chairperson of the Senate finance committee said in December last year, the DOTr returned some P11 billion to the National Treasury representing unspent funds.

“What miracle are you going to do to be able to spend it until December?” Legarda asked Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade during the committee deliberations on the DOTr’s proposed P73.8 billion for 2018 last week.

During the hearing, Tugade also admitted his department might not be able to spend 20 percent of the budget it was asking from Congress for next year.

Legarda said she will seek a full report from the DOTr’s attached agencies — the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) — on their commitment during last year’s budget deliberations how they spent the funds downloaded to them by the department to facilitate spending.

The CAAP and PPA were supposed to finish or continue the construction of new airports and ports or repair old ones with the infusion of funds last year.

In another hearing for the proposed budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development last week, DSWD officials sought the senator’s help on how to spend some P7 billion left for its sustainable livelihood programs.

She said she suggested that the DSWD distribute the P7 billion to its regional officials so these could immediately implement the program for conditional cash transfer program beneficiaries, who already have been vetted.

“Every time we don’t spend, somewhere some Filipinos don’t receive basic services, some farmers don’t get fertilizers or benefit from farm-to-market roads, some students don’t get the programmed financial assistance for them,” Legarda told dzBB yesterday.

She said the Senate aims to approve the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for 2018 in October but this will depend on whether the House of Representatives will be able to transmit its approved version this Thursday.

Legarda said if the House does not transmit the measure this week, the approval of the budget will be delayed by a month as Congress will go on recess in October.

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