Speaker wants additional pork barrel in typhoon-hit areas

December 16, 2009 1:59 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Dec. 16 — Despite the global economic recession, lawmakers from both Houses of Congress are clamoring for an increase in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to sustain pump-priming activities of the next government.

Congress held Tuesday its first bicameral conference meeting on the proposed national budget for 2010 to come up with a final version.

Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, chairman of the committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives, said increasing the pork barrel of lawmakers was "something the members would welcome, most especially now."

"Certainly, this is something members would welcome especially now. We have to get the consensus. We decide based on majority. We understand the need, but we still have to balance it with what is appropriated," he said.

Malacanang has slashed by 30 percent or P2.725 billion the PDAF allocation in the proposed P1.541-trillion budget for next year — from the P9.66 billion in 2009 to P6.94 billion in the proposed 2010 budget.

Each senator gets P200 million, while each congressman gets P70 billion a year in PDAF.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said he is in favor of increasing the pork barrel funds especially in typhoon-stricken areas.

Nograles said increasing the pork barrel of lawmakers is necessary at this time due to the needed rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas damaged by the recent typhoons that hit the country.

The departments with highest budget allocation were the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) with P117.3- billion; followed by Interior and Local Government (DILG) with P65.3-billion; National Defense (DND) with P57.6-billion; Agriculture (DA) with P38-billion; Health (DOH) with P28-billion; state and universities and colleges (SUCs) with P22.3-billion; Agrarian Reform (DAR) with P19-billion; Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with P16.4-billion; and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with P14 billion.

Approved amendments in the Senate version of the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2010 include the additional P1.2-billion allotted for the implementation of the Clean Air and Solid Waste Management Act, setting aside P100 million for the newly-created Climate Change Commission.

The Department of Education (DepEd), which has the biggest budget amounting to P162.1-billion, got additional P162 million to boost the education programs of the government.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) also received additional P100-million.

A total of P100-million has also been approved for the equipment modernization of government television station NBN Channel 4.

Contentious items in the proposed national budget for 2010 are the allocations for the judiciary and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Malacanang cut the budget of the judiciary from P13.3 billion in 2009 to P13 billion in 2010.

In the light of the massacre in Maguindanao, senators proposed to slash the budget of the ARMM by P1 billion and realign this to pensioners (P700 million) and to the DSWD (P300 million).

On the other hand, Nograles proposed for the House oversight committee to put "restrictions" with regards to the release of the budget for the ARMM.

He said that members of the House appropriations committee should also need to discuss the deduction made by the Senate on the Supreme Court's allocation for next year.

The Speaker also said it was unlikely for the House to ratify the budget within the week, adding that some members would like first to examine the final printed copy of the budget as approved by both members of the bicam before voting on it.

He said if that's the reason that some congressmen may want to look at what was deleted and what was added in the bicam, "therefore, we should give them a chance to be able to scrutinize the final budget of the appropriations both as agreed upon by the House and by the Senate before we vote on it."

"Chances are, what will happen is that we will have the bicam ratified when we come back on January 17," he said.

Congress will adjourn session on December 18 for the Christmas break.

Nograles, however, stressed that there will be no reenacted budget for 2010.

"There will be no reenacted budget except probably for that small portion of a few days or one to two weeks of January 2010," he said.

"What is important is that we should know the final version because in a bicam, some are added and some are deleted, some are subtracted. It is important that we know the final version of the approved budget for 2010," he added. (PNA)

vcs/LGI

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