Gloria Arroyo to get P2.2 billion for her Pampanga district

November 5, 2010

Former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is going to get her way in the 2011 national budget despite being part of the minority in the House of Representatives.

The lower chamber is set to pass the Aquino administration’s 2011 General Appropriations Bill next week with no cuts—including the controversial P2.2-billion worth of projects for her congressional district.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya said lawmakers are set to approve the budget bill on final reading either Monday or Tuesday next week.

Abaya conceded that no major cuts can be made on the P2.2-billion appropriations for Arroyo, although the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can realign some portions later on as savings.

He said the DPWH will review the package, of which about P1.6 billion are loans from South Korea and Japan for the rehabilitation of areas affected by the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

“The P2.2 billion is not pork, it might be really just to address the flooding in the region, of course the P70 million is totally different issue, separate from P2.2 billion,” he added.

“I talked with [DPWH] Secretary Rogelio Singson. there are components there particularly dredging of small rivers and upgrading of the roads up to the first level of the house might be unnecessary to call so these are possible components that could slashed and treated as unnecessary,” Abaya said. “However, I don’t see a major slash, those are the only components. What is important is to ensure proper implementation and accountability and standards.”

Abaya said all the government can do now is make sure that the projects are properly implemented, and government funds are not wasted by corruption.

Aside from the allotment for Arroyo, another item that did not suffer any realignment was Aquino’s centerpiece P21-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which he continued from the Arroyo presidency.

These were the items that Abaya said were not included in the allocations that were realigned.

“Yes there are realignments in the final version of the budget. Quite a handful of special and general provisions included.” he said. “I know realignments in public works, DepEd, specific provision in agriculture, to make sure the implementation of agrarian reform law is executed. There are provisions on CCT to ensure oversight committee is formed, whatever savings to allay fears on absorptive capacity to build schools and maternal health immunization programs.”

The 2 items were among those untouched by the realignment of some P5-P6 billion under the proposed 2011 budget to other programs.

Lawmakers realigned half of the administration’s P5-billon fund for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“We took away P2.5 billion from the PPP lump sum from DA to the purchase of palay, not importation,“ Abaya said.

He also noted the possibility of tapping of some P500-P700 million in the Higher Education Development Fund for the constructions of buildings and facilities of state universities and colleges. “(After) close coordination with CHED and the DBM they’re quite convinced that the higher education development fund geared towards the needs of higher education could be tapped,” he said.

Lawmakers are also studying a proposal to institutionalize preschool with the universal kindergarten program that could eventually be part of the expended 12 year basic education curriculum.

Abaya said there is also no realignment for the rural electrification projects that was raised during the budget deliberations. That project got no new appropriations.

Projects under the TESDA are also still under review since only 20% of its trainees reportedly get jobs.

There is also no cut or realignment in the budget of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) that already got a 50% budget reduction under the government’s original budget proposal.

Abaya said there may be a need to pass laws limiting the allowances of GOCC executives.

He also said some P10 billion from the road users’ tax maybe tapped to augment the funds of congressmen whose districts have less than P50 million in projects.

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, meanwhile, urged the government to use savings from the appreciation of the peso to fund infrastructure projects.

Abaya defended the government’s thrust to limit spending, saying that more spending could be done in 2012 after fiscal responsibility is instituted in 2011. “If we control deficit for 2011 we can see pump priming in 2012.”

Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, on the other hand, urged the government to regionalize incentives to private businesses, giving more incentives to businesses that invest in key areas over sectors that are saturated with a large volume of investors.

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