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PCSO, Pagcor budgets first to face scrutiny

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
PCSO, Pagcor budgets first to face scrutiny
The House appropriations committee, headed by Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, will be scrutinizing the spending plan of the agencies, which PCSO and Pagcor officials will be asked to justify.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Officials of two of the government’s revenue-generating agencies, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), are scheduled to defend their office’s proposed budget for 2023 at the House of Representatives today.

The House appropriations committee, headed by Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, will be scrutinizing the spending plan of the agencies, which PCSO and Pagcor officials will be asked to justify.

Co said his committee will work hard, without sacrificing its independence pursuant to Congress’ mandate over the power of the purse, to ensure that President Marcos can sign the 2023 national budget before Dec. 25.

“When the Speaker received the proposed budget last Aug. 22, the instruction was clear: for the committee to act with dispatch without sacrificing its independence to pass this budget before the Christmas break,” he said.

“We shall guarantee that every peso authorized in this budget is directed to address food security and inflation, reduce poverty and provide the necessary stimulus for economic transformation,” he added.

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, senior vice chair of the Co panel, also promised a speedy process.

“Rest assured that Congress will work tirelessly to approve a budget that is responsive to the needs of the people and is able to bring inclusive and sustainable growth,” Quimbo said.

Meantime, it will be the turn of the Departments of Tourism and Foreign Affairs tomorrow, while the judiciary will defend its proposed budget on Thursday, to be led by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.

Apart from the Supreme Court down to the lowest courts, officials of the Departments of Energy, the the Interior and Local Government and the Energy Regulatory Commission will also be grilled on Thursday.

On Friday, Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez will defend the 2023 budget of the Office of the President, while officials of the Departments of Agrarian Reform and Environment and Natural Resources will also appear before the Co-led committee.

It will be the turn of the Department of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration on Sept. 5, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development will have its day on Sept. 6.

In a related development, Reps. Mikee Romero of 1Pacman party-list and Paolo Duterte of Davao City want the budget for the modernization of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and teachers’ allowance, respectively, increased.

“Phivolcs is a service and facility institute of the Department of Science and Technology that is primarily mandated to alleviate disasters that arises from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami and other related geotectonic phenomena,” Romero said.

Romero is author of House Bill 3587 that seeks to provide modernization funding to Phivolcs to ensure that the country fulfills its commitments to international volcanology and seismology agreements.

Duterte, along with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, proposed the grant of a tax-exempt P2,000 allowance per month within the school year for every public school teacher to cover expenses for teaching supplies and materials.

“Teachers serve as the nation’s modern-day heroes – tirelessly providing at par education to the youth and honing them to become valuable members of the society,” Romero and Duterte said.

The two senior administration lawmakers filed HB 3543 (Teaching Supplies Allowance) aimed at institutionalizing the grant of P2,000 and which will cover public school teachers in the basic education sector.

‘Excessive tax’

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office meanwhile lamented that excessive taxation on lotto and charity operations prevented the agency from fulfilling its mandate of doling out charity to the country’s needy citizens.

The excessive taxes being imposed on the agency have depleted its ability to allocate some revenues for its charity fund from which it gets the cash assistance sought by indigents from satellite offices all over the country, according to PCSO general manager and vice chairman of the board Melquiades Robles.

“It’s an alarming concern for us in the PCSO,” Robles said in a virtual interview on Teleradyo over the weekend.

“Because of the taxes being levied on us, the P9 billion we used to have, it does not even reach P1 billion. We just have P900 million (for our charity fund). It’s just one-tenth,” he added in Filipino and English.

The PCSO official said they pay a withholding tax, a documentary stamp tax (DST), a TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law tax, a CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) law tax and a mandate to fund the Universal Health Care (UHC) law and the Malasakit Center law.

He added that the PCSO’s DST payments reach up to P5 billion, its UHC funding reaches P2 billion and its Malasakit Center law implementation, P1 billion. – Rainier Allan Ronda

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