House Appropriations Committee Chairman Davao City Rep. Karlo “Ang Probinsyano” Nograles on Tuesday expressed great concern over the slashed budgets of key agencies under the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019 presented to the panel by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC).
Nograles noted that the proposed 2019 budget––which is cash-based––is P10 billion lower than the current P3.767 trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“Let’s address the elephant in the room. You are coming to us with a budget that’s P10 billion lower in absolute terms. All of us here are concerned with the reductions in various departments and agencies, namely the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),” Nograles told Sec. Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which is part of the DBCC.
The Mindanao-born solon pointed out the substantial decreases in the budgets of vital agencies such as the DOH (P35 billion), the DepEd (P77 billion) and the DPWH (P95 billion). There were also P5 billion reductions each in the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The Mindanao-born solon pointed out the substantial decreases in the budgets of vital agencies such as the DOH (P35 billion), the DepEd (P77 billion) and the DPWH (P95 billion).
Nograles said the significant budget reductions could hurt the delivery of projects, especially in rural areas, and would adversely affect his fellow probinsyanos.
“For 2019, ang hirap naman ipaliwanag sa mga kababayan natin na nag-reduce tayo ng mga classrooms, nag-reduce tayo ng mga barangay health units, nag-reduce tayo ng roads dahil mayroon tayong ginagawang ganitong cash-based. Lalung lalo na may pinasa tayong TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law, gumawa tayo ng mga taxes dito. Ano naman ang sasabihin namin sa mga kababayan namin,” the Appropriations panel chair said.”
“All of these concerns could have been addressed if DBCC came to us with a bigger budget. I personally was expecting a budget of at least P3.9 trillion,” said the legislator.
The proposed 2019 national budget is cash-based as opposed to traditional, multi-year obligations-based budgeting. The DBM has described it as the more efficient budgeting method since it limits incurring obligations and disbursing payments for goods delivered and services rendered, inspected, and accepted within the fiscal year.
“Obligation-based budgeting would still be the preferred method if cash-based budgeting would result in reducing funds intended for developing the regions.”
Diokno argued to the panel that the proposed 2019 budget and the existing 2018 budget cannot be compared “apples to apples,” as the former is cash-based while the latter is obligations-based––which is why the P10 billion reduction, according to the Budget chief, is “misleading.”
However, Nograles maintained that despite its perceived faults, obligation-based budgeting would still be the preferred method if cash-based budgeting would result in reducing funds intended for developing the regions.
“Ang nakikita po nila ngayon ng mga economic managers natin, based sa pera na inaallocate ng Kongreso sa iba’t ibang mga departamento at ahensya, mabilis ang pag-obliga ng pondo. Obligated, meaning to say, para hindi mag-revert ang funds, inoobligate nila before the year ends. Kapag sinabing obligated, may gagawa na nung proyekto. Masisimulan na,” Nograles explained.
“Pero yung kabagalan doon sa pagsisimula at pag-iimplement at sa pagkukumpleto ng proyekto, doon nagkakaroon ng aberya. Kaya ang ginawa po ng DBCC, ng DBM, mag-cash based po tayo. And that was the whole concept of the Budget Reform Bill (BRB) na pinasa ng Kongreso,” added the solon.
“But nowhere in our agreement, with the BRB at itong cash-based na ito, did we ever talk about slash, slash, slash,” lamented Nograles.
Nograles said the bottom line is finding a way to deliver on the promises made by the Duterte administration to the public.
“We passed the TRAIN law, we promised so many things to our kababayans. We come back to them and we say, hold muna tayo sa [school] buildings, hold muna tayo sa barangay health centers, hold muna tayo sa infrastructure projects. How do we explain that to them?”
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