BUDGET REFORM OR 2016? | UNA bares P1.9-B insertion in DILG's 2014 budget
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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE-6:48PM) The outcry against misuse of pork barrel should not draw attention away from equally condemnable "insertions"--including P1.9 billion for DILG---neatly tucked into the 2014 budget, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said Sunday. But Presidential Spokesman Sec. Edwin Lacierda said the programs to be funded are the President's, not DILG chief Mar Roxas's, and have been there since 2011.
UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said the "questionable and highly irregular" insertions in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2014, constitute an additional allocation for the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Still, he added, the P1.9 billion is a mere speck of the P20-billion national budget earmarked through the bottom-up budgeting (BUB) programs led by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.
Tiangco expressed apprehension that insertions in the GAA are likely to happen now that President Aquino has called for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)-- but to be replaced by the line-item budgets for specific projects in the GAA.
Tiangco questioned the P1.9-billion B additional funding for items which are outside the scope and responsibility of DILG. "I believe this is the first time that the DILG has appointed itself as the champion for climate change, potable water and mass housing. Perfect na ba ang situation ng Peace and Order sa ating bansa na dapat bigyan si SuperMAR at kunin ang budget at trabaho na mandato ng ibang ahensya," he said.
Tiangco is questioning the P76-million appropriation supposedly earmarked for "climate change adaptation"; the P573 million for "potable water supply" for waterless municipalities and barangays; and P1.25 billion for housing intended for informal settlers in Metro Manila.
"Looking at the figures alone is a no brainer. That's a whopping P1.9 billion in additional funds for programs that are anyway already being done by other government agencies," Tiangco noted.
According to Tiangco, if the budget is not strictly scrutinized, the ruling Liberal Party would have its own version of PDAF tucked within the regular budget for 2014. “Why would we give extra appropriation to DILG on budgetary support for housing, water system and climate change when there are already budgetary support to key government agencies already handling these concerns? Are climate change and housing the core competence of DILG?" asked Tiangco.
In the proposed 2014 GAA, around 40,000 families are the target recipients of the P1.25-billion allotment for the DILG's self-initiated housing program.
Buildup to 2016 campaign? Of course not, says Palace
The increase in the DILG budget is seen as part of a nationwide 2016 campaign buildup for the presidency, said Tiangco's press statement.
On Thursday, Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad met with members of the Liberal Party to discuss the use of P20 billion of the national budget to start campaigning for 2016 through bottom-up budgeting (BUB) involving select civil society groups and local government units.
On Sunday, Sec. Edwin Lacierda, in a text message to media through Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, stressed the programs have been there since 2011, and the only new program in the 2014 outlay is the one for relocating to safety thousands of families living along waterways and other danger sites.
"For the record: 1) the budget is the President's program and this is his budget, not Secretary Butch's [Abad] or Secretary Mar's," said Roxas, apparently in response to insinuations that he could hijack funds for his own political stock.
Lacierda added: "2) the DILG is tasked to implement a) Salintubig: water for waterless towns; b ) Pamana: basic infra rebuilding for conflict affected areas; c) BUB (Bottom Up Budgeting): getting the communities to directly input what hard infra they need vs. having National Government agencies dictate to them what is downloaded."
All these programs, said Lacierda, "have been there since 2011. 3) New for 2014 is the president's program to save those in danger areas - ISF Sagip Buhay: saving informal settler families' lives and moving them to safer ground."