Senate to realign DOTr funds to other agencies
The plan to slash the DOTr budget arose at the start of plenary debates on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 where massive underspending of agencies was taken up.
Senate to realign DOTr funds to other agencies
Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators are moving to make cuts in the proposed P147-billion budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for next year and have the amounts transferred to other departments owing to the agency’s poor record of spending its allocations.

The plan to slash the DOTr budget arose at the start of plenary debates on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 where massive underspending of agencies was taken up.

“They’ve (DOTr) poor disbursement rates. So, rather than give the money to someone who cannot spend it, let’s just give it to… there are so many who need funds, we see some that really need funds, urgent ones like free college education, so I hope we fund them first,” Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, told reporters yesterday.

He said lawmakers are now reluctant to give the DOTr and other agencies with poor disbursement records the budgets they are asking for.

“If they were not able disburse before, how much more if we increase their budgets? That’s our point,” the senator said.

At yesterday’s budget deliberations, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson also cited the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s poor record of funding projects, which has made a failure of the Duterte administration’s much-touted “Build, Build, Build” flagship program.

They noted the DPWH has a disbursement rate of only 42.87 percent so far this year, while the DOTr performed worse with a spending rate of 40.74 percent from its obligated projects, based on reports of the Commission on Audit.

Recto said the figures would be lower if measured against their actual budgets.

“It is sad to say that the Build, Build, Build program of the administration is a dismal failure. Out of the 75 flagship projects that were proposed at the start of the administration, exactly nine started construction,” Drilon said.

“That is only two percent of the total. We only have two years and a half left in this administration, I don’t think any substantial progress insofar as that program is concerned will be achieved. I repeat, the execution is simply dismal,” he said.

He noted that economic managers’ failure to provide basic information on projects during the deliberations yesterday reflected their capacity to implement the flagship programs.

He said some of the 75 projects are now being removed from the list and others are being reviewed, which meant they were “haphazardly done.”

“What I recall is that the 75 projects would be part of the economic relationship between China and the Philippines. Apparently that aspect of relation between the two countries is a total failure,” Drilon said.

He said the economic managers cannot brag about having approved 100 projects as they put out during the debates, as approvals do not mean anything until funds are released and the projects are implemented.

“Otherwise, it does not help the economy, because the disbursement is the one that could provide jobs, build roads, not a feasibility study,” he said.

As the Senate began its deliberations on the budget, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano warned senators that taxpayers stand to lose P1 billion for every day of delay in the passage of the budget measure.

“A day of delay is P1 billion. Can you see the irony? The Senate and the House had a fight in 2018 and the amount was P95 billion. We lost close to P120 billion, P150 billion because of that fight,” Cayetano told CNN Philippines.

At the same time, the congressman from Taguig urged Senator Lacson to back his claim that he had detected P100 billion in illegal insertions from members of the House of Representatives.

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