Government may tap foreign loans for P47-billion Manila Bay rehab

In Photo: A fisherman fixes his banca over the weekend at Manila Bay in Pasay City. Local producers are chafing at a proposal to cut tariffs on imported fish and meat, as a way of busting inflation. Stakeholders said this would not necessarily reduce prices and would end up harming local sectors.

THE government may turn to foreign loans to raise the P47 billion required for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Wednesday.

Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters in a news briefing that the government is still looking for sources of funds to bankroll initiatives aimed at cleaning up Manila Bay.

“We can’t rule out the possibility of foreign loan financing. The economic managers are constantly looking for the lowest cost of financing,” Diokno told the BusinessMirror via SMS.

“Since the Manila Bay rehab is multiyear and green, we might be able to raise foreign funds [carrying] low interest rates,” he added.

Diokno also revealed that the government has already acquired a foreign grant for the crafting of the Manila Bay master plan, which is now on its second phase.

Malacañang said the money for the rehabilitation of the historic bay will likely be sourced from the Road Users’ Tax.

“The money from the Road Users Tax [may be used] because we will still continue to collect tax, it’s just that the money will go directly to the National Treasury,” Diokno said.

“And if I remember right, the fund has at least P45 billion; by this time, it’s about P50 billion because we collect something like P1.5 billion every month, so we’ll see if we can tap that. The P47 billion needed is not just for one year because the rehabilitation is a multiyear activity,” he added.

The bill abolishing the Road Board, which currently manages the tax collected from road users, is now awaiting the President’s signature. The measure was transmitted to the Palace on February 8.

Cash-based budgeting

Diokno also said the government would still push through with the shift to cash-based budgeting despite the removal of cash-budgeting provisions in the bicameral conference committee’s version of the General Appropriations Bill.

“The content and form of the budget is an Executive decision,” the budget chief said, adding that Administrative Code of 1987 allows the cash-based budget.

According to Section 36, Chapter 5, Book VI of Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987, “an operational cash budget shall be implemented to ensure the availability of cash resources for priority development projects and to establish a sound basis for determining the level, type and timing of public borrowings.”

“Some governments are even moving toward accrual-based systems, which are the next step after cash budgeting. We will fall far behind if we do not implement this now,” Diokno said.

The DBM said the shift to cash-based from obligation-based budgeting will hasten the implementation of projects. A cash budget would also reflect “more accurately” the annual outputs and outcomes of the government, according to the DBM.

The proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 has already been approved by Congress but it has yet to reach the desk of the President. Congress is targeting to submit the money measure to Malacañang on March 1.

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