‘National government to still implement major infrastructure projects’

In file photo: A fisherman passes by beneath the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension in Parañaque City, which is under construction as one of the priority infrastructure projects. The extension project of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 was declared 58.03 percent complete after the girder was installed along the Manila-Cavite Expressway.

THE national government should still be in charge of implementing big-ticket infrastructure projects even as it moves to devolve certain functions to the local government units (LGUs) to cushion the fiscal impact of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman and Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said they are still reviewing what specific functions and spending items should be assigned to LGUs.

Pangandaman separately told reporters that they will come up with a menu and a transition plan for the devolution of functions.

“We’re still reviewing it now, so maybe we’ll present it to DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] and the President, and SOF [Secretary of Finance], and Neda [National Economic and Development Authority] within the week,” Pangandaman said in a chance interview with reporters.

Meanwhile, Diokno said at the post-State of the Nation Address economic briefing on Tuesday that they are closely coordinating with the leagues of municipalities, cities, and provinces as well as DILG regarding the devolution of certain functions of the executive branch to local governments.

Under Executive Order No. 138 signed by President Duterte in June last year, the national government shall fully devolve functions, services, and facilities no later than the end of 2024, including those specified under Section 17 of the Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.

Among those that were supposed to be devolved to LGUs under the decades-old Local Government Code are infrastructure facilities intended to service their needs, such as provincial roads, bridges, sewage, flood control; social welfare services, and agricultural support services.

To help poor and disadvantaged LGUs efficiently implement and deliver the functions and services devolved to them, the government appropriated P1.25 billion under the newly established Growth Equity Fund under this year’s national budget.

Of the amount, 70 percent or P875 million will go to concerned municipalities while 10 percent or P125 million each is allocated to provinces, cities, and barangays.

LGUs got their respective shares from a much bigger total National Tax Allotment (NTA) of P959.04 billion for this year, the start of the implementation of the Mandanas ruling.

This was higher by 37.89 percent or P263.5 billion than the share of LGUs last year at P695.49 billion.

The Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling expanded the basis for the computation of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to include collections not only of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) but also the duties collected by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), a part of taxes collected in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, taxes from the exploitation of national wealth, excise tax on tobacco products and other taxes provided in the National Internal Revenue Code and franchise taxes.

Despite the continued implementation of Mandanas ruling implementation next year, LGUs are set to receive their shares from a smaller NTA of P820.27 billion, down by 14.47 percent from this year This was based on the collection of national taxes in 2020, the year when the government revenues took a hit due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns.

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