MANILA - Sen. Grace Poe on Thursday questioned why the 2021 budget allocation for flood control projects was P18.78 billion higher than the proposed funding for the Department of Health (DOH), which leads the Philippines' fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Under the proposed 2021 spending bill, at least P150 billion is allotted for flood control projects while the DOH only gets P131.22 billion as proposed, Poe noted during budget deliberations at the Senate.
"Since COVID-19 is still present, one would assume that including our health facilities would be the priority," the senator said.
"Environmental factors should not be neglected and there are really some legitimate flood control projects, but there are a few flood control projects that are questionable because it’s hard to keep track of them if they were really done," she said.
The amount allotted for flood control projects is "not absolute" and may be revised by Congress, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said.
"We need to strike a balance between health and economy, but we are not saying we are absolute in our calculation," he said.
Poe said she would bring up the matter during the Department of Public Works and Highways' budget hearing to clarify why flood control projects got a bigger chunk of public funds during the global pandemic.
Former House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya earlier called flood control projects as the "new cash cows" of corrupt politicians and contractors because it is hard to inspect whether or not contractors followed the required foundation depth and height of anti-flood walls.
Under the 2019 budget, nearly a quarter of the DPWH's proposed P544.5-billion funding were allocated for flood control programs, Andaya said.