A member of the House of Representatives lamented Friday what he described as “undue” cuts in the proposed infrastructure outlays for certain congressional districts under the House-approved version of the proposed 2021 national government budget.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, who is identified with former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, shared Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s observation on “noticeable” increase in the budget of legislators allied with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, and cuts in those linked with his predecessor, Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, in the budget bill.
Villafuerte confirmed that in CamSur,, for instance, a total P386 million was pruned from the House-approved allocations in the Department of Public Works and Highways under the proposed 2021 national budget for three of President Duterte’s flagship projects in Bicol that were green-lighted by the National Economic and Development Authority.
“If the current House leadership claims to be fully supportive of the Duterte administration, why has it slashed on the sly the DPWH outlays in the House-endorsed General Appropriations Bill for three of the flagship projects in Bicol that were approved by the NEDA Board chaired by the President himself?” he stressed.
“I hope our senators would keep tabs on the actual allocations of all congressional districts in the would-be bicam (bicameral conference committee) talks by both chambers on the GAB for submission to the President, in light of suspicions that more unwarranted budget cuts are forthcoming as a way to increase the infrastructure outlays for the districts of representatives closely identified with the current House leadership,” he said.
Villafuerte said P182 million was cut from the budget of the CamSur Expressway, which is a 15-kilometer (km), four-lane road with waterways, bike lanes and sidewalks that will serve as an alternate route for motorists going to the eastern and southern municipalities and of those going to Sorsogon and Albay.
Another P124 million was removed from the budget of the CamSur-Albay Diversion Road, which is a 61.90-km road project that will decongest the main road from the province to Albay, he said, and P80 million more was sliced off the budget for the Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Highway, which is a 40.69-km, four-lane coastal road along the province’s west coast that will provide access to assorted tourism sites.
The CamSur Expressway and Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Highway are on the list of projects under President Duterte’s signature program “Build, Build, Build,” according to the NEDA website.
The GAB that the House transmits yearly to the Senate represents the House-approved version of the NEP that the President submits to the Congress at the start of every congressional session.
This developed as Villafuerte welcomed Lacson’s statement that the senators may review the new fund distribution in the House-transmitted GAB during the forthcoming bicam negotiations.
“Such a review would expose the House-initiated unwarranted reallocation of funds in certain congressional districts such as those in CamSur as well as additional fund redistribution if any, that the current House leadership might push during the bicam talks for the benefit of districts of lawmakers close to Speaker Velasco,” he said.