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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

25 August 2021 02:13:01 PM

The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday assured that the adverse findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) against various government agencies won’t delay the deliberation and timely passage of the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022.

ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Go Yap said that while he recognizes COA’s constitutional duty to audit government expenditures, it would be more prudent if the audit body will bring its adverse findings to the Office of the Ombudsman for appropriation action.

“‘Yung COA andyan talaga ‘yan para bantayan, i-audit ‘yung mga agencies, so kung may nakikita silang irregular pwede nang i-file sa Ombudsman ‘yung kaso. Pero ang sa atin, hindi dapat ito (COA reports) maging dahilan para ma-delay ang budget,” Yap said during the virtual Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum.

He noted that the House only has 35 days—the shortest period ever—to pass the biggest government spending plan in Philippine history and which happens to be the last national budget under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

“Meron lang tayong 35 days, including Saturday and Sunday, para maipasa sa Lower House ang budget, so kung lahat ng report ng COA hihimayin namin, I don’t think na aabot tayo,” Yap said.

“At the end of the day, the people of the Philippines ang matatalo ‘pag hindi naipasa ang budget,” he added.

Yap also cited the urgency and importance of enacting next year’s national budget before the end of 2021.

“We cannot afford [to have] a re-enacted budget, kasi sa pananaw ko itong budget na ito ay road to recovery ng Pilipinas at ito ‘yung tutugon sa pangagailangan natin sa pandemic sa 2022,” he pointed out.

Yap said the committee deliberations on the national budget proposal will begin on Thursday with a briefing from the inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee or DBCC.

The House budget chief said he specifically wants to find out from the National Economic Development Authority its “projections on the economy with this budget” given the ongoing pandemic and its impact on government revenue generation.

In the same news forum, AAMBIS-OWA Partylist Rep. Sharon Garin said the record-high budget reflects the government’s willingness to spend and pump-prime the economy as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country.

“Ang pinakaimportante is government spending para ma-recover ‘yung growth natin. Whether that’s for COVID or for infrastructure or whatever, basta gumastos lang ang gobyerno, may domino effect ‘yan,” Garin, who chairs the House Committee on Economic Affairs, stressed.

She added: “I think it’s on the right track na i-increase natin ang government spending to make up for the downgrading of our economic growth. Ang kailangan talaga ngayon ay ‘yung pera sa kamay ng tao.”

Meanwhile, Yap underscored the need for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to justify its proposed P28.1 billion budget for 2022, which is up from P19 billion this year.

Some quarters are questioning the huge increase in NTF-ELCAC’s budget, while the allocation for Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) was slashed by 170 million.

“Karapat-dapat ba kayong (NTF-ELCAC) taasan? Ipakita nyo sa amin yung program niyo. Why P28 billion? Saan niyo gagamitin yung budget na ‘yan? Papano makakatulong sa COVID yang budget na ‘yan?” Yap asked.

“Kung hindi nila ma-justify sa amin yung needs…we will slash it and dadalhin namin kung saan namin nakikita na mas kailangan ng mga Pilipino ‘yung budget,” he added.

On the other hand, Yap said he will ask his colleagues in the House to increase RITM’s budget for next year.

“Kailangang may power ang RITM to monitor lahat ng mga testing laboratories. Kailangan ng added fund. I will lobby na taasan ang pondo ng RITM to monitor and regulate all the testing centers in the Philippines,” Yap said.

Given the enormous challenges brought by COVID-19, Yap said the P5.024-trillion national budget was “not enough, but we have to spend and use it wisely.”#