Solon urges fellow lawmakers, DPWH to 'rectify inequitable allocation' of 2021 infra budget under Cayetano

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2020 05:56 AM

Abellanosa warns it might cause “political downfall” of DPWH head

MANILA - Cebu City 2nd District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa called on fellow congressmen and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to “rectify” the alleged “inequitable” infrastructure fund share of districts in the proposed 2021 budget under the leadership of then House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

During Wednesday’s House plenary deliberations on the DPWH budget, Abellanosa attributed Cayetano’s ouster to discontent over the allocation of the 2021 infrastructure budget among districts, and issued this warning.

“If this issue on the inequitable, unequal, unfair allocation of the DPWH budget has caused the downfall of the Former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, for all we know, this might become also the cause of the political downfall, hope it won’t, of our very good friend Sec. Mark Villar,” Abellanosa said.

He noted that the DPWH under Villar’s leadership “generously accommodated” hundreds of millions of pesos worth of infrastructure projects in the districts of congressmen who are known allies of Cayetano.

“Mr. Speaker, honorable sponsor, we beg that whatever abuses that may have been committed, please let us rectify this,” he added.

Abellanosa presented a video of the recent flooding in Cebu City, and lamented that its two districts received less than half a billion pesos each in infrastructure budget for 2021, despite the “dire need” for infrastructure support and proposals submitted to the DPWH.

“While the former Speaker Cayetano, together with his close allies are wallowing in tens of billions of DPWH allocations for their districts, sad to say, the 2 districts of Cebu City which contributed substantially to the national wealth are accorded only about less than half a billion for each of these two districts of the city of Cebu,” he said.

“Compare this with what we have heard about the P11 billion in Camarines Sur through the clout of former Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte. Compare this to the reported P8 billion for Taguig through the clout of the former Speaker Cayetano… This is a big insult and utter affront not just to the city of Cebu but most importantly to the people of the city of Cebu,” Abellanosa added.

Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu and Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano also aired their disappointment over the relatively low infrastructure budget their respective districts received.

Mangudadatu called on newly installed House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to ensure the equitable distribution of infra funds.

“Ito lang ang aking panawagan sa bagong liderato. Sana matupad ‘yung equitable distribution ng pondo,” he said.

“In my district, billions ang aking isinumite. P444 million lang ang na-approve. Pangalawang beses na ito ng ating budget. Bakit laging kulelat? Nakikita natin sa ibang mga distrito, ang lalaki ng kanilang allocations. Kami naman dito sa southern part ng Republika ng Pilipinas, nangangarap din na magkaroon ng magandang mga kalsada, magkaroon din ng magandang mga proyekto, upang sa gayon, ang farm products po namin, lalu na sa rebel infested areas, madala nila ‘yung kanilang produkto sa mga bayan-bayan na maayos ang tanggap sa mga presyo ng kanilang produkto,” Mangudadatu added.

Albano, for his part, said, the entire Region 2, which has 13 districts, received P20.24 billion in infra budget allocation under the proposed DPWH budget for 2021.

“Comparatively to other regions, this allocation is very much too low,” he said, and asked the DPWH what it can do.

“We promise that we will look into this… If there are funds available, probably we can push for additional budget,” Rep. Romeo Momo Sr., the House sponsor for DPWH’s proposed budget said.

BROSAS: INFRA LUMP SUM SHOULD GO TO PUBLIC HEALTH

The billions of pesos in lump sum appropriations under the proposed 2021 DPWH budget should go to public health programs, as the country continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.

“‘Yung bilyon na lump sum na para sa mga infrastructure, pwede namang sa panahon ng pandemya ay ilaan para sa pampublikong pangkalusugan, lalu pa kinaltasan ang mga pondo tulad ng health emergency management, epidemiology, surveillance program, national immunization program, pati mga specialty hospitals tinapyasan ng pondo, pati (COVID) referral hospitals,” she said.

Momo agreed that health should be a primary concern, but noted that the pandemic also negatively affected the employment of many Filipinos, and that the infra push will help address this.

“Kailangan din natin mag-invest sa job generator na mga proyekto. It has been proven that one of the biggest generators of employment is construction. The build build build program of this administration will surely address the need for employment,” he said.

Momo noted that the DPWH has also been allocating funds for projects like quarantine facilities and roads leading to hospitals. 

“Nasa 0.2 percent lamang ang infra spending for hospitals and medical facilities ayon sa GAB (General Appropriations Bill). Ibig sabihin po ang malaki dito yung sa Build Build Build, at infra spending nito ay para sa mga highway, etc. hindi naman talaga sa mga hospital o medical facilities,” Brosas commented.

PANGUIL BAY BRIDGE

Construction of the P7.3-billion Panguil Bay Bridge is expected to begin in January 2021, according to Momo. The DPWH targets to complete the project in three years.

Momo gave the timeline for the project, after Lanao del Norte 1st District Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo expressed frustration over supposed delays in the construction of the longest bridge in the Philippines. Once completed, the Panguil Bay Bridge will be 3.9 kilometers long, surpassing the San Juanico Bridge in the Visayas, which is 2.2 kilometers long.

“What is exactly the reason that we have two-year delay in the Panguil Bay bridge? It has been two years since our very own President, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Sec. Mark Villar came to the province of Lanao del Norte and groundbroke the Panguil Bay Bridge,” Dimaporo asked.

“The schedule for the completion of this design will be on or before December this year… If this will be completed on December, the actual construction work will start on the month of January 2021 and to be completed in three years,” Momo said.

“That does not satisfy this representation or the people of Lanao del Norte… We are putting into the record the negligence and incompetence of a member of the DPWH family,” Dimaporo responded.

The Senate meanwhile also flagged some P345.25-billion in lump sum lodged in the DPWH's proposed budget, saying it is "most unusual" for this much to remain unutilized in a funding request.

Under the law, lump sum appropriations - or amounts allotted for unspecific projects - are considered illegal.

The Senate Committee on Finance should "disaggregate any lump sum item in the budget in the spirit of transparency," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.