AMID persistent allegations of pork barrel in the budget bill, the leadership of the House of Representatives on Monday showed the P9.52-billion realignment it made in the proposed P4.1-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2020, which will be transmitted to the Senate on Tuesday (October 1).
In a press conference, Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano identified two sources of funds that were realigned to augment the funding for priority programs in line with the President’s priorities. These include: P3.75 billion for right of way payments under the Department of Public Works and Highways, and P5.7 billion for the operational expenses for the Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay Elections which will not push through next year.
Cayetano said the Department of Agriculture will be augmented by an additional P3 billion for the palay purchase and P500 million for the quick response fund.
“We added P3.5 billion to allow the DA to buy more palay and strengthen the quick response capability of the agency to respond to emergency situations like the African swine fever that we have now,” he said.
He said the Department of Education has been given P800 million, of which P650 million will go to the operation of schools to benefit students from Kinder to Grade 12, and P150 million to the model day-care centers nationwide.
Cayetano also said P100 million will be given to the National Center for Mental Health and P100 million to a quick response fund, both under the Department of Health.
The Speaker also said the UP-Philippine General Hospital will also be augmented by P100 million for medical services and P100 million for quick response fund.
Cayetano added P1 billion each will be given to the Camp Development Fund of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
At least P247.9 million will be allocated to Davao International Airport for its operating expense.
For the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Cayetano said P200 million will be given as special allowance for traffic enforcers and field personnel, and P300 million for salary increase of 4,000 job order personnel.
Cayetano added that P500 million will be given to the Conservation and Protected Area Development of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Cayetano said it is also critical to have access to electricity in order for the marginalized communities to have a safe and comfortable life. Hence, the House of Representatives will provide P500 million for the Sitio electrification projects of the National Electrification Administration.
He said the Dangerous Drugs Board’s community-based rehabilitation centers will receive P250 million.
Lastly, Cayetano said the Philippine Sports Commission has been given P500 million in preparation and training for the 2020 Olympic Games and 10th Asean Para Games.
Cayetano reiterated that the House-approved budget remains pork-free and bereft of any illegal parking and insertions of funds.
“We invite our friends from the Senate to look at these national developments. I challenge anyone: what part of this presentation is pork?” he said.
“Transparency is the key. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything. There will be no problem if the evidence is hazy,” Cayetano added.
Last week, House members demanded an apology from Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson after he claimed that a Deputy Speaker’s office will receive P1.5 billion while each congressman’s office is entitled to P700 million under the national budget.
While Cayetano said he respects Lacson, the Speaker said “I think he cannot accept that this House is also anti-pork …but everything is on the record on paper.”
Citing a Supreme Court decision, House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said pork barrel is a congressional intervention after the enactment of the GAA.
In 2013, the SC abolished and declared unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork-barrel system.
Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez