P-Noy calls for zero-based approach to budget

July 26, 2010 8:47 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, July 26 — President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday vowed to implement a "zero-based approach" in the national budget.

In his first state-of-the-nation address (SONA), President Aquino assured that from now on, his administration "will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong."

"This is the point of what we call the zero-based approach in our budget. What used to be the norm was every year, the budget merely gets re-enacted without plugging the holes. Next month we will be submitting a budget that accurately identifies the problem and gives much attention on the right solution," he said.

The President cited the alleged over importation made by the past administration wherein some 117,000 metric tons (MT) of rice was reported as the country's shortage in the supply in 2004, but the government then purchased some 900,000 MT.

"Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed," the President said.

He also cited the year 2007 wherein the government has reported a 589,000 MT shortage in the supply and they bought some 1.827 million MT.

"Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed," the President said.

"What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008," he said.

"Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are four million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?" he lamented.

President Aquino said the result of these alleged over importation was the P177 billion current debt of the National Food Authority (NFA).

"This money that was wasted could have funded the budget of the entire judiciary, which is at P12.7 billion this year; the conditional cash transfers for the following year, which cost P29.6 billion; and all the classrooms that our country needs, which cost P130 billion," he said.

"This is what is clear to me now: change can only come from our determination to stamp out this extravagance and profligacy. That is why starting now: we will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong," he said.

Meanwhile, Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap, a former agriculture secretary, in a chance interview, said he'd be more than happy to be a part in providing clarification on the alleged over importation of rice.

He, however, clarified that the importation of rice "is not dependent on one person. It's made by an inter-agency committee on rice and corn. It is a collegial body of which its members include the NEDA, DTI, NFA and other agencies. Even PAGASA is a member of that."

"Then the recommendation of the inter-agency is studied and approved a second time by the NFA Council which counts for its members, among others, the DoF and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas," he said.

"So we must re-visit the recommendations of these agencies to see if there was an over-importation or not. These agencies are in a better position to explain their recommendations through the past years," said Yap. (PNA) RMA/LGI

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