Sen. Chiz Escudero on Wednesday (Aug 16) expressed his willingness to help the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) augment its intelligence fund allocation in the 2024 national budget to make it more effective in the performance of its duties in protecting and defending the country’s territorial waters.
Guesting on ANC’s “Headstart” this morning, Escudero said he will support the Coast Guard during budget deliberations in the Senate, noting that the agency’s P10-million intelligence fund has not been increased since 2009.
“I will look into the fact if we can augment–not from the Capital Outlays, Personnel Services or from the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses–but from the intelligence and confidential budget already proposed by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” he pointed out.
It’s a matter of carving out from the current budget proposal, Escudero said, so as not to affect the other items, especially the appropriations meant to improve the delivery of basic social services to the Filipino people.
“Para within the same amount na lang ang pag-uusapan natin. Huwag tayo magbawas ng tulay at mga school buildings. Huwag magbawas ng hospital o magbawas ng social services para dagdagan ang intelligence fund ng Coast Guard. Dapat manggaling din ‘yan sa intelligence and confidential funds na prino-propose ng Executive Branch,” he said.
The veteran legislator, however, said that even if Congress fails to appropriate additional intelligence fund, “the President can actually augment it after the budget is passed.”
According to Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the PCG on the West Philippine Sea, the Coast Guard’s intelligence fund has remained unchanged at P10 million since 2009.
“With what is happening right now in the West Philippine Sea, with the magnitude of the function of the Coast Guard, not to mention maritime safety and maritime environmental protection, it is important for the Philippine Coast Guard to receive a larger intelligence fund to support our operations,” Tarriela said.
In the same television program, the Bicolano senator also clarified that his proposal to allocate at least P100 million to fund the construction of permanent structures in Ayungin Shoal in the WPS, will not be on top of the P5.76-trillion proposed national budget for the next fiscal year.
“The Senate President expressed support yesterday (Aug. 14) that he will help in carving out the budget. This is not on top of the budget; we will just carve out from the existing proposed budget an amount to do this,” Escudero stressed.
He also thanked his colleagues who welcomed his proposal and expressed to support it in the budget deliberation.
“I will put it in the budget as a cover. Sen Jinggoy (Estrada) said it might not be enough and I said ‘I would have been happy with the P100 million but if you want to increase it, you have my blessing,'” Escudero said. (ai/mnm)