By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — In the spirit of transparency, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson has made public his proposed institutional amendments to the 2022 budget bill, seeking to slash questionable appropriations and to ensure enough funding for priority programs, activities and projects as he has consistently done in previous years.
Lacson, who has served as a strict watchdog of the budget, proposed reducing funds for items such as farm-to-market roads and right-of-way payments to fund key programs on education, connectivity, anti-cybercrime and defense needs for the coming year.
His proposed amendments include some P300 million to improve the facilities in Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, which he visited last Nov. 20.
One of Lacson’s proposed amendments involves an increase for the “connectivity load” for teachers and DepEd personnel to deliver online lessons amid the pandemic, based on estimates that 20 GB would be consumed if a teacher does continuous online teaching for 20 days at 4 hours per day.
“To pursue the meaningful benefits of ‘connectivity load’ with significant savings for the government, an increase in the appropriations for the connectivity load for 1 million DepEd personnel is hereby proposed. To this end, increase the appropriations of the MOOE of DepEd by P1 billion or from P2.30 billion to P3.30 billion,” he said.
Lacson likewise introduced a special provision allowing local government units to directly contract the services of transport cooperatives – empowering LGUs to co-implement, collect fares and co-finance service contracting.
“This would lighten the load of the Department of Transportation and speed up the implementation of the PUV Modernization Program as the transport sectors may properly be represented by their respective LGUs. This would also ensure that the drivers are given fair wage and humane working conditions,” he said.
In the list of institutional amendments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee under Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Lacson proposed slashes to the appropriations of:
- Department of Agriculture:
- a P1.97-billion decrease in the proposed appropriations for farm-to-market roads, from P6.95 billion in the House version of the budget to P4.98 billion, as specified in the National Expenditure Program. Lacson noted that under the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling and Executive Order 138 mandating full devolution of functions, implementation of farm-to-market program should be transferred to local government units. Also, there was no consultation made with the DA before the increase in the funding.
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources:
- a P2-billion reduction for the National Greening Program from P3.68 billion to P1.68 billion due to adverse COA performance audit in 2019
- Department of Public Works and Highways:
- P1-billion deduction from P3.01 billion in MOOE for the routine maintenance of national roads;
- P200-million deduction from P710 million for the routine maintenance of public buildings;
- P500-million deduction from the P1.61-billion allocation for flood control and drainage systems;
- P1.36-billion deduction from P4.56-billion allocation in the central office for preliminary engineering/detailed engineering of various DPWH projects; P300-million deduction from the P800 million for feasibility study including business case study for potential Public-Private Partnership projects;
- P600-million deduction from P1.6-billion allocation for parcellary surveys, land appraisal and titling of public infrastructures (including taxes);
- P500-million deduction from right-of-way payments for various ongoing and future projects;
- P100-million deduction from EDSA rehabilitation and improvement;
- P500-million deduction in lump sums; and
- P44-million deduction from each regional allocation for structural improvement of public buildings and construction of evacuation centers, totaling P704 million
On the other hand, Lacson proposed increases in the appropriations of:
- Department of Education:
- P500-million increase in Quick Response Fund to P2.5 billion. This will help cover the repair and reconstruction costs of over 8,706 classrooms, excluding the unfunded requirements to cover the damages of Super Typhoon Rolly; and defray the costs for repair and reconstruction of damages incurred by public classrooms in recent years;
- P35-million increase in Indigenous People’s Education Program to P86.47 million;
- P425-million increase in Flexible Learning Options to P15.64 billion;
- P90-million increase in Special Education Program to P451.20 million;
- P550-million increase in Inclusive Education Program to P16.59 billion;
- P22.145-million increase in Child Protection Program to P26.72 million;
- P1-billion increase in Last Mile Schools Program to P2.5 billion;
- P38.5-million appropriation for the UP Diliman Institute of Marine Science Institute, including a two-story dorm building worth P10 million, and purchase of marine scientific and oceanographic equipment worth P28.50 million; and
- funding for programs of the UPLB National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, to elevate research and development including P120.5 million for construction of microbial bank; P91 million for pilot plant and screen houses for biofertilizers, biostimulants, and biopesticides; and P163 million for procurement of lab equipment.
- Department of Information and Communications Technology:
- P1-billion increase for the National Broadband Program, from P4.5 billion to P5.50 billion
- Philippine National Police:
- P300 million for PNP One Network;
- P100 million for operations and intelligence capabilities of the Anti-Kidnapping Group; and
- P20 million for the implementation of the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act
- Department of Justice:
- a P41.84-million increase for the National Bureau of Investigation’s Integrated Ballistic Identification System, to effectively investigate especially cyber-related offenses
- Department of Labor and Employment:
- a P178.5-million increase for the Child Welfare Prevention and Elimination Program to P1.66 billion
- Department of National Defense:
- additional P15.11 million to fund the National Defense College of the Philippines
- Armed Forces of the Philippines:
- P444.32 million for the Philippine Navy, including P254.24 million for the enhancement of detachments in Kalayaan; P66 million for missile lifting and transport equipment, P33.31 million for additional support for BRP Conrado Yap PS39, P59.99 million for operations and maintenance sustainment of Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial System; and P30.77 million for a Night Vision Imaging System.
- P38.5-million funding for Pagasa Island, including P10 million for a 2-storey dorm building and P28.50 million for marine and scientific equipment
- P50.35 million for enhancement of maritime seaboards
- P262 million for PVAO including P156 million for veterans hospitalization and medical care program and P106 million for the establishment of veterans’ wards.
- Department of Science and Technology:
- P300-million increase for budget of Philippine Nuclear Research Institute for completion of a building that will house the cyclotron and hot-cell facilities
- P38.54-million allocation for the National Research Council of the Philippines
- Philippine Coast Guard:
- P322-million increase to fund dry docking and general overhauling and PMS for 10 Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRVs)
- Commission on Higher Education:
- P45.28-million increase for its legal education board, including Digital Adaptation and Readiness (DARE) program, ICT equipment, Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP).
- Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency:
- P247.49-million increase for construction of the PDEA Region 10 office (P45 million), lab equipment (P125 million), upgrading of PDEA national headquarters laboratory (P12 million), inter-agency committee of Task Force Drug Courier (P5 million), narcotics detection dogs breeding program (P7 million)
- P100-million addition for the Supreme Court’s legal aid subsidy to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Meanwhile, Lacson sought to restore the appropriations for the Loan Proceeds of the foreign-assisted project, Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT), which was cut by the House version of the budget bill from P2.97 billion to P410.61 million. The P2.55 billion needed to restore the appropriations can be taken from the proposed reduction from the farm-to-market roads appropriations of the Department of Agriculture.