Senate to push for realignment of intel funds to PCG, Philippine Navy for WPS defense

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Senate to push for realignment of intel funds to PCG, Philippine Navy for WPS defense
This photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows a member of the Philippine coast guard vessel BRP Malabrigo manning his post while being shadowed by a Chinese coast guard ship at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has vowed to augment the confidential and intelligence funds of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to provide them “full logistical and operational support” in fending off maritime aggression.

Zubiri did not identify the exact agencies whose budget will be realigned to pump more funding into the two agencies. But the Senate president mentioned that there are “hundreds of millions” of CIFs in other agencies compared to the “measly P10 million and P39.74 million” allocated to the PCG and the Navy, respectively.

Recent maneuvers by Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea necessitate greater “external defense capabilities” to allow the PCG and the Navy to patrol the tense waterways, Zubiri said.

"Imagine, the Coast Guard only has P10 million in confidential funds. Other agencies of government, hundreds of millions. So I would suggest if we can transfer these to agencies that really need intelligence funds to protect us internally and externally,” Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Based on Department of Budget and Management documents, the PCG has only received P10 million in CIFs annually since 2009.

The Senate's oversight committee on CIFs, which Zubiri chairs, convened last week to begin its work of analyzing how some 30 agencies have spent their CIFs to determine if there is a need for reforms in the grant of the secret fund.

According to its adopted rules, the Senate oversight panel can examine how CIFs are used and compel the heads of agencies to justify their spending. Zubiri has bared that there were improper uses of these funds, such as its use to relocate informal settler families, but refused to name which agency was responsible.

The Senate leader said that once the Senate receives the proposed 2024 national budget from the House of Representatives, they will push for realignments or changes in the CIFs to boost the intelligence capabilities of the PCG and the Navy.

He added that if the oversight committee will explore the possibility of converting some CIFs into regular line items in an agency’s budget.

“We will submit a recommendation to the plenary. We have to vote in the committee if these agencies should lose or have a decreased amount of intelligence funds,” Zubiri said.

CIFs of OP, OVP 

Zubiri previously said that the Office of the President (OP) has already submitted a comprehensive report on how it spends its CIFs but declined to comment if the Office of the Vice President (OVP) has also done so.

The OP stands to get P2.25 billion in confidential funds while P2.31 billion will be allotted for intelligence funds in the proposed 2024 budget. In total, these will make up about 43% of the proposed budget of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s office.

RELATED: President's budget passes unchecked; House panel ends deliberations in 30 minutes | Philstar.com 

Meanwhile, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has asked for P500 million in confidential funds for the OVP and another P150 million for DepEd in the proposed 2024 budget.  

— with reports by The STAR / Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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