MANILA (UPDATE) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sonny Angara defended Thursday the increase in the budget of Department of Public Works and Highways in the spending plan approved by Congress.
At P694.82 billion, the DPWH had the second biggest allocation in the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget. This is bigger than the P287.47 billion earmarked for the Department of Health, which is tasked to procure COVID-19 vaccines next year.
"There are local officials in their districts—mayors, barangay captains—tinatanong sa congressman, nasaan ''yung project namin dyan? Humihingi sila ng classroom, ng kalsada, ng gymnasium," Angara told ANC's Headstart when asked about DPWH's budget.
(There are local officials in their districts—mayors, barangay captains—who ask congressmen, where are our projects there? They ask for classrooms, roads, gymnasiums.)
"Hindi maiwasan 'yan. You talk to any congressman and they’ll tell you na hinihingian sila sa district. I think those are the requirements of the job, partly, when you are up for reelection in 3 years—your constituents will ask you, did you bring home the bacon to our area? Did you bring home the bacon to our district? Ganun yung usapan dyan, hindi maiwasan 'yan taon-taon," he said.
(That cannot be helped. You talk to any congressman and they’ll tell you that their districts ask for these. I think those are the requirements of the job, partly, when you are up for reelection in 3 years—your constituents will ask you, did you bring home the bacon to our area? Did you bring home the bacon to our district? That's how the conversation goes, it cannot be helped every year.)
He added, it is "particularly acute" this time, as some 2020 infrastructure projects were not funded and there was a carryover of P135 billion from last year.
"So you’re in essence funding one and a half years worth of infrastructure projects that were discontinued or not completed in 2020," he said.
Angara said lawmakers tackled Sen. Panfilo Lacson's concerns about allocations for multipurpose buildings and unfinished projects, but taking away funding for certain districts may affect the timeline for passing the annual spending bill.
"We discussed it, but you take away those projects from a certain congressman’s district, you’re gonna have a problem and that’s not gonna allow you to pass your budget by year-end. May tatamaan talaga dun (Something will be hit)," he said.
The needs of the country does not necessarily go against the needs of a congressman's district, and there are projects such as scholarships and scientific research that representatives and senators both appreciate, he said.
"I think the media always likes to look for points of conflict, but there are also a lot of points of agreement and congruence and positivity for the country," he said.
The Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday ratified the 2021 national budget, which is envisioned to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by including provisions for the vaccine and economy recovery.