(STAR) By Jess Diaz And Paolo Romero - President Arroyo is keeping the lion’s share of more than P1.2 billion of intelligence funds in the 2008 budget program.

Documents submitted to the House of Representatives show that Mrs. Arroyo’s intelligence budget of P650 million is more than half of the total allocation for other agencies and is the single biggest spying appropriation in her proposed P1.227-trillion budget for next year.

Also in the proposed budget program, allocation for the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act or AFMA is P2.7 billion more next year at P23.6 billion, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said yesterday.

The bulk of the AFMA funds or P20.5 billion is earmarked for the Department of Agriculture, he said.

Next year’s total intelligence fund is about P30 million more than this year’s, but Andaya considered the difference “flat.”

“We are not increasing because they’re not part of social services. We haven’t increased proposed confidential and intelligence expenses, or the budget of so-called intelligence gathering agencies. If you factor in inflation, CIs are in fact declining,” he said.

Of Mrs. Arroyo’s P650-million intelligence fund, P500 million is eyed for the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PACC), which she heads, and P150 million for the Office of the President.

Every year since she took over from former President Joseph Estrada in January 2001, Mrs. Arroyo has been getting huge amounts in intelligence funds. Congress has not required her to account for the money.

Upon assuming the presidency, she vowed to abolish the Estrada-era PACC, but has since changed her mind.

What she succeeded in disbanding was PACC’s only operating unit, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), headed under the Estrada administration by then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and now opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

When Lacson was PAOCTF chief, it was Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and then Sen. John Osmeña who allocated P500 million in intelligence funds to PACC in the national budget. The money was intended for Lacson’s task force, which was then in the thick of a campaign against kidnap-for-ransom groups.

The huge sum has since been retained in the annual budget under PACC, even though the commission’s operating task force has been disbanded.

PACC uses most of its P500 million outlay for intelligence gathering and only P35 million to P36 million for the salaries of its few personnel and for capital expenditures.

In contrast to the President’s P650-million intelligence budget, the Department of National Defense has P151 million in similar funds, including P118 million for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The PNP has P270 million while the Department of Justice gets P121 million, of which P18 million is eyed for the National Bureau of Investigation and P8 million for the Bureau of Immigration. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency gets P31.2 million and the National Security Council, P1 million.

Both NICA and NSC are under National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, who concurrently serves as Presidential Political Affairs Adviser.

The proposed intelligence funds for the Department of Transportation and Communications stand at P19.4 million, of which P15 million is for the Office of Transportation Security; P15 million for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency; and P10 million for the Department of Finance.

Even offices that do not deal with security concerns have intelligence funds. For instance, Vice President Noli de Castro will have P6 million at his disposal.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will have P5 million each, while the Office of the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court will have P3 million and P2 million, respectively.

Bigger AFMA budget

Andaya said next year’s proposed allocation for the Agriculture department’s AFMA is P4.8 billion bigger than this year’s P15.5 billion.

Andaya said the amount is separate from DA’s regular appropriations, from where it sources its payroll and other operating expenses, totaling P3.5 billion next year.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), on the other hand, will receive P1.7 billion from the 2008 AFMA budget.

He said the amount is on top of DAR’s two other budget sources: its regular appropriations of P2.4 billion next year and the 2008 Agrarian Reform Fund of P8.9 billion which it will administer.

Two other components of AFMA are the P310 million worth of budgetary support for government corporations and P1.34 billion in “Allocation of Local Government Units.”

The “budgetary support” in turn will be shared among the Philippine Coconut Authority (P120 million), Philippine Rice Research Institute (P165 million) and the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (P25 million).

Under the DA’s AFMA budget of P20.25 billion, the National Irrigation Administration will implement 15 locally-funded projects costing P3.4 billion and 10 foreign-assisted projects with a combined programmed allocation of P4.6 billion next year.

“The P8 billion irrigation fund aims to place 22,186 hectares under irrigation and repair existing irrigation systems in 76,125 hectares,” Andaya said.

Some P4 billion under AFMA will be spent to encourage more than 822,000 farmers in 112,409 hectares of new agribusiness zones to boost food production.

For the livestock sub-sector, more than P500 million has been earmarked while high-value crop planters, numbering more than 97,000, are set to receive P742 million in aid.

The government is also setting aside P4.2 billion for the construction, repair and maintenance of some 3,100 kilometers of farm-to-market roads. Other recipient agencies of AFMA funds next year are Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (P1.17 billion), Philippine Carabao Center (P77.6 million), National Meat Inspection Service (P140.7 million), and National Agricultural and Fishery Council (P442 million).

Total agriculture and agrarian reform spending next year is projected to reach P76.1 billion, Andaya said.

AFMA mandates the appropriation of not less than P17 billion annually up to 2015 for the farm and fisheries modernization program.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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