MANILA - The P21 billion set aside in the 2015 national budget for barangay communities and local government units (LGUs) is not part of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel as claimed by leftist groups, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said yesterday.
“It’s not pork. It’s also not an election campaign fund of the administration for 2016,” he said.
He said the fund is for barangay units and LGUs whose participation in the crafting of the national budget was solicited under the administration’s grassroots participatory (formerly called bottom-up) budgeting program (GPBP).
“All the GPBP allocations are itemized, based on the prioritization made by barangay-based people’s organizations and LGUs,” Evardone, a vice chairman of the House of Representatives appropriations committee and member of the ruling Liberal Party, added.
“There is no discretion by top government officials in the allocation and determination of GPBP projects. The GPBP process of identifying projects in far-flung barangays and municipalities with high poverty incidence is the real people power in action,” he said.
He pointed out that the GPBP is one of the many innovative budget reforms of President Aquino “to ensure that the actual needs and aspirations of the less privileged sectors of society are given priority budgetary allocations.”
“Simply put, this is actually listening to our true bosses, the masses,” he said.
He said groups that do not want the administration to attend to the actual needs of barangay communities and do not want Aquino to succeed are giving political color to his reforms.
Another Liberal Party congressman, Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City, hit back at the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) for claiming that the administration is supposedly raising election campaign funds from the Jalaur dam and irrigation system project in Iloilo.
“It is very unfortunate that a group that parades itself as a pro-farmer organization will attack a project seen to help farmers and drive up the agricultural produce of the region, just to advance its own political agenda,” he said.
Treñas said KMP’s allegations are unfair to the project’s private and foreign sponsors, including the Korean government, “which extended a P8.95-billion official development assistance to construct the dam and irrigation network. These accusations are also unfair to every farmer and fisher who have expressed their support for the project and who will ultimately be the beneficiaries of the two mega dams.”
He added that the priority given by the administration to the dam-irrigation complex “attests to the seriousness of the government to build state-of-the-art support facilities in the country to increase agricultural productivity.”