As their ‘Tour of Luzon’ continues, Lacson raises concern over fiscal discipline, empowering LGUs

As their ‘Tour of Luzon’ continues, Lacson raises concern over fiscal discipline, empowering LGUs

By Ernie Reyes

Sen. Ping Lacson and SP Tito Sotto (UNTV courtesy)

MANILA — Why can’t the government be run efficiently, like a big private corporation?

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson posed this question in meetings with local
businessmen in Pampanga and local officials in Malolos, Bulacan during
the first day of his and Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III’s “Tour
of Luzon,” a four-day series of consultative meetings to feel the
pulse of people on how the government can better respond to the
present and post-pandemic situations.

Lacson noted that fiscal discipline and a more efficient performance
audit are two of many areas where the national government can learn
from the business sector to better cope with the humongous problems
that our country is now facing amid the pandemic.

“This is something we want to discuss with you: Isn’t it a sound
concept to run the government like a private corporation? For example,
many consider Singapore a big ‘corporation,’ in the sense that
investments by the people come back to them in the form of social
services and other forms of public service. We want to learn from you
on these things. We know the companies you run would not be successful
if your decision-making is not sound,” Lacson said at a consultation
with local business leaders in Pampanga.

“In the case of our government, in the preparation of the budget plan
for example, instead of the Development Budget Coordinating Council
(DBCC) through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) imposing
a budget ceiling for the different agencies to work on, it should
instead follow what private corporations do, like start from zero and
make each of their departments to propose and justify before the board
their annual budget,” he added.

Lacson likewise stressed the need to digitize and automate government
processes to minimize graft and corruption. This includes doing away
with human intervention in tax and customs collections, and monitoring
of public expenditures to better utilize the loans contracted by the
national government which as of May 2021 has already hit a record-high
P11.071 trillion and counting.

“We borrow and borrow but we keep squandering the monies instead of
properly investing them in our country’s development particularly in
the countryside, where vast areas and resources are waiting to be
tapped for future investment opportunities,” Lacson lamented.

Lacson and Sotto also stressed the need to empower rural areas to
partner with the national government in bringing economic development
to the people, by bridging the disconnect between the national
government and the needs and priorities of the local government units,
as well as issues affecting traders in the provinces.

“No doubt, local government units and the national government are
partners in promoting the welfare and well-being of the people. Every
year, billions of pesos in the national budget go unused, while there
is a gaping disconnect between the national government and the needs
and priorities of the local government. One way to address this is to
channel the unused billions to local governments for their development
projects,” Lacson, who authored Senate Bill 23 or the proposed Budget
Reform for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) Act of 2019, said at a separate
consultation in Tarlac.

“The target is that once local governments have the needed funding for
their development projects, this would encourage Filipinos to return
to their home provinces – if health protocols allow,” he added.

In 2016 and 2019, Lacson authored the BRAVE bill to allow local
government units to get much-needed funding for their key development
projects. The BRAVE bill guarantees an annual Local Development Fund
to help LGUs implement a three-year Comprehensive Development Plans.
Under the bill, a LDF for financing development projects, activities
and programs will be given to provinces (P500 million to P1 billion
per year); cities (P100 to P200 million each per year);
towns/municipalities (P50 to P100 million each per year); and
barangays (P3 to P5 million each per year).

On the other hand, Lacson noted Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado’s
commitment to require agencies to secure certifications from the
Regional Development Councils for projects to be included in the
proposed national budget for 2021 is a good start, though it initially
covers only big-ticket projects. Before this, Lacson lamented that of
the projects initiated by the RDC for the 2020 budget, only 25 percent
were included in the National Expenditure Program that forms the basis
of the budget bill.

Sotto agreed with Lacson, adding their consultative journey is being
done “because we think we need a leader that listens, a leader who
will get the pulse of the people and do what is right and not what the
people around him thinks is right. It should be the people themselves.
That’s why we’re here.”

“In my case, I am proposing a program to solve the problem of illegal
drugs and drug abuse in the country and not the way it is being done
now. There must be a holistic approach in doing this. With our track
record in the Senate we would be able to come up with feedback from
the business sector, from friends all over Luzon and later, Visayas
and Mindanao,” Sotto noted.

Lacson and Sotto started their consultative tour Thursday morning with
a visit to Barasoain Church in Malolos (Bulacan). They then proceeded
to Angeles City (Pampanga) and Tarlac. (ai/mtvn)

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