FORMER TREASURER: 2015 BUDGET AIMED TO BOOST RULING PARTY'S CHANCES IN 2016 POLLS  

Watchdog says it’s all for LP in 2016 elections. THE former national treasurer said Friday that the administration’s proposed P2.606 trillion national budget is aimed at boosting the ruling party’s chances in the 2016 national elections, with at least half or P1.303 trillion in automatic and lump sum appropriations that President Benigno Aquino III can quickly mobilize. “This is similar to the 2012 budget that preceded the 2013 elections. The government cranks up spending for infrastructure and construction the year before elections. Concrete projects create the impression of growth, though it is a challenge to sustain this growth for the next years,” said former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, a convener of Social Watch Philippines. “In Philippine politics, elections are all about money,” Briones said. “Government spending places incumbent politicians and their parties at an advantage over their opponents for the upcoming elections.” “Projects are credited to officials as part of their track record as the ruling parties would spend for projects in their allies’ jurisdictions. Opposing parties can be deprived of this spending, putting them at a disadvantage,” Briones added. “SWP’s assessment of the 2015 budget reveals that practically almost half of it can be considered lump sums due to the lack of details and mechanisms for clear accountability. This makes the funds vulnerable to abuse,” Briones said.

“Only P1.739 trillion is covered by the GAA. The rest are automatic appropriations and therefore, not scrutinized by Congress. The President’s Special Purpose Fund is P378.603 billion, the Unprogrammed Expenditures is P123.056 billion, Internal Revenue Allotment is P389.860 billion, interest payments (debt servicing) is P372.863 billion. This does not include Malampaya Funds which are also automatically appropriated, and Off Budget funds like the Motor Vehicles Users’ Charge and those coming from PAGCOR [the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.],” Briones said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Budget as poll funds? Absurd, says Palace  

Absurd was how Malacañang described claims that the proposed national budget for next year could be used for the 2016 elections in view of its numerous lump sums and automatic appropriations. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte yesterday said the public could easily check the budget proposal and scrutinize where the funds would go. “This is where you should hold us accountable because all the agencies and all the departments have put targets,” she said over radio dzRB. She said the budget proposal now has six books from the previous two because of the details. “For example, the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), when they propose a program, it should be accompanied with a budget and indicate their targets and objectives in putting it there,” she said. “We hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we put out the information.”

University of the Philippines professor and former national treasure Leonor Magtolis-Briones said almost half of the budget were lump sums and automatic appropriations, and warned that might turn out to be the biggest election budget in history. “This is similar to the 2012 budget that preceded the 2013 elections. The government cranks up spending for infrastructure and construction the year before elections. Concrete projects create the impression of growth, though it is a challenge to sustain this growth for the next years,” she said. Valte denied claims half of the budget would be at the discretion of the President, citing the Contingency Fund under the Special Purpose Fund, which would be used for calamities and other unforeseen expenses. “I think the use of these funds in the last few years will show you that the funds are being spent well and that they are being allocated for the purposes for which the law intends them to be spent. That is clear and we can look at the track record of President Aquino when it comes to that. Everything is clear after auditing,” she said.

“Let us not confuse the public by throwing such kind of statement that when you look at it, it’s a half truth or it’s just being crafted to deceive the public,” she added. Unfair Meanwhile, Senate committee on finance chairman Sen. Francis Escudero said it was unfair for the critics of the administration to describe the lump sum items as the pork barrel fund of the President or an election budget. In an interview over radio dwIZ, he said part of the lump sum items is the automatic appropriations, such as the internal revenue allotment and debt service. * READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘New savings rule by Congress cannot go against SC ruling’ 

While Congress is working on a definition of savings in the national budget, one of the leaders of the Senate believes this may not be the best course of action. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the Supreme Court (SC) had given general guidelines on how to determine savings as referred to in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget. “Savings could be generated only upon the purpose of the appropriation being fulfilled, or upon the need for the appropriation being no longer existent,” the SC declared. Cayetano said this meant that savings should be “actual savings.” “The safeguards are already found in the SC decision. I am not against defining savings and passing a supplemental budget,” Cayetano said. He agreed Congress has the power to define savings but only if this has not yet been covered in the Constitution or the rulings of the SC.

Cayetano explained whatever Congress comes out with as far as a definition of savings is concerned should be consistent with the ruling of the SC on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), particularly on the use of savings. In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Aquino asked Congress to come out with a joint resolution to define savings. Senate President Franklin Drilon said Congress would respond to the call of the President and come out with a joint resolution to define savings. According to Cayetano, the problem with this move is that some people could see this as a way to circumvent the ruling of the SC on the DAP. “If we define it in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, it will protect us against a plunderous president. But if we circumvent the law, not only is it promoting a plunderous president, even in this administration, it will be promoting secretaries to have less accountability,” Cayetano said. “The definition has to be well crafted that it will not be perceived as circumventing the Supreme Court decision but rather it should be in furtherance really of public service,” he said.

(ALSO) Escudero: Government needs lump-sum funds to respond to calamities

Senator Francis Escudero (photo) said Thursday it is impossible to totally eliminate lump sum funds in the national budget even as neophyte senators said they will scrutinize the details of the proposed General Appropriations Act for 2015. Escudero said lump-sum funds, which government critics have called the President’s pork barrel, give the government flexibility to respond to the immediate needs of the people. “Hindi pupuwedeng zero lump sum talaga dahil kailangan mayroong kaunting flexibility ang gobyerno lalong-lalo na sa calamity funds at quick response fund,” the senator, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said in a phone-patch interview. “Paano naman natin malalaman yung kalye o building na masisira, paano natin malalaman kung ano yung kailangan at a particular time depende sa kalamidad na tatama sa atin. Dapat may ganung flexibility ang gobyerno,” he added.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday that 29 percent, or P501.670 billion, of the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget is lump-sum funds or special purpose funds. The allocations for the Office of the President that have yet to be itemized include the calamity fund, miscellaneous personnel benefit fund, pension and guarantee fund, contingency fund, Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and debt service payments. Penalties for shelved, delayed projects?  Senators Nancy Binay and Benigno Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV said they will look into the budget proposals of different agencies, particularly after the issue on Disbursement Acceleration Program, closely. “I think pagkatapos ng nangyari sa DAP, mas magiging detalyado ang pagsusuri namin pagdating sa budget. Aside from SPF (special purpose funds), itatanong ko yung mga DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) projects na approved na ng Congress pero hindi na bid out. Siguro ngayon dapat itanong sa lahat ng agencies kung OK na 'yung mga projects na isinubmit nila for approval, kung dumaan na sa test o kumpleto na ang dokumento,” Binay said in a weekly news forum.

During the Senate hearing on DAP, Binay pointed out that some DOTC projects that were approved and funded by Congress were shelved due to technical and structural issues. Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee of Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said lawmakers must be vigilant and careful in scrutinizing next year’s budget to ensure every centavo of public money will go to its intended use and not in somebody’s pocket.”  Binay said she will file a bill imposing a penalty for delays in the implementation of Congress-approved projects. “Dapat may liability. What if sinadya na hindi ituloy yung proyekto para maging savings yung pondo? It’s a possibility. We should avoid that window na puwedeng maabuso. May accountability dapat kung nade-delay ang proyekto,” she said. Escudero, however, was wary of the proposal. “We will look into that proposal, pero hindi naman ganun kasimple ang pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno. Paano kung may temporary restraining order na in-issue, hindi na-implement yung project. Paano kung may nagkaso bigla na hindi pa siya nababayaran ng right of way?” he said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: DOTC eyes interconnection of NAIA 1 and 2  

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado, NAIA Terminal 3 manager Bing Lina and Delta Air officials observe the flow of departing passengers at the airport yesterday. RUDY SANTOS MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is now looking at further expanding the capacity of the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport with the full operations at NAIA Terminal 3 to cope with the increasing number of tourists. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya yesterday said the government is mulling the interconnection of terminals 1 and 2 of NAIA.

Aside from building a NAIA Terminal 5, Abaya pointed out that the government is studying the possibility of augmenting the passenger capacities of both terminals 1 and 2. “It will be better if we could bring NAIA Terminal 2 closer to Terminal 1. It will become more convenient for passengers to transfer,” he said on the sidelines of the inaugural flight of Delta Airlines and the opening of its Pacific Club lounge at NAIA 3. Abaya said the government would first relocate the fuel depot between the two terminals so it could build a structure connecting both passenger terminal buildings. Latest data from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) showed that the number of domestic and international passengers increased by 3.1 percent to 32.865 million last year from 31.877 million in 2012. * READ MORE...

ALSO: P-Noy keeps P300-M intel, confidential fund  

PHOTO: Yellow flowers, candles and ribbons as well as an image of a Time magazine cover adorn the tomb of former President Corazon Aquino as her children, led by President Aquino, marked her fifth death anniversary at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City yesterday. President Aquino is retaining lump sums of P150 million for “intelligence expenses” and another P150 million for “confidential expenses” while reducing funding for his own office by P223 million. The 2015 budget proposal increased by P341 billion to P2.606 trillion from this year’s P2.26 trillion. The proposed budget Aquino submitted to Congress on Wednesday through Budget Secretary Florencio Abad shows that funding for the Office of the President (OP) proper would go down from this year’s P2.791 billion to P2.568 billion. In 2013, Aquino’s office had P2.295 billion.

The decrease in appropriations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) like equipment purchase accounts for the reduction. MOOE would go down from P1.998 billion this year to P1.911 billion in 2015, while CO would fall from P183.4 million to just P20 million. However, provisions for salaries would go up by P28 million from P608.3 million to P636.9 million. Aside from a combined P300-million intelligence-confidential fund, the OP would have P172.4 million for travel, P434.5 million for subsidies and donations, P137.3 million for professional services (hiring of consultants), P95.2 million for utilities, P85.6 million for repair and maintenance, P67.3 million for training and scholarship, P97.4 million for rentals, P15.9 million for advertising and P64.4 million for representation expenses. * READ MORE...

ALSO Tribune editorial: Noy’s bubble ready to burst  

Noynoy’s economic make-believe world where the Philippines is supposedly catching up with the rest of Asia seems ready to burst after credit rating firm Fitch Ratings said in a review that it may withdraw the investment grade on the Philippines due to low per capita income and low government spending. Fitch was the first credit watchdog to grant an investment grade to the country mostly as a result of an aggressive lobbying from mainly Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima who is well-connected among multilateral institutions.
Purisima’s pitch then was that the Philippines was underrated and the sought investment grade was long overdue.
He did hit the target with even Standard and Poor’s giving the country a two-notch above investment rating recently.
Apparently, Fitch is now doing a double take, realizing that the claimed economic expansion is not reaching most of the population and the administration of Noynoy is not doing much to change the situation.
Fitch noted that low incomes, a poor governance, compared with “BBB” range peers are key sovereign weaknesses of the country. Nonetheless, the ratings agency, in its Asia-Pacific Sovereign Credit Overview in July, affirmed the investment grade rating with a stable outlook. Official records show that the country’s $2,500 to $3,000 per capita income is way below the $4,000 to $5,000 per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of countries with the same investment grade. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Former Nat'l treasurer says ‘2015 budget for Poll funds’

MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera, Maricel V. Cruz - Watchdog says it’s all for LP in 2016 elections.

THE former national treasurer said Friday that the administration’s proposed P2.606 trillion national budget is aimed at boosting the ruling party’s chances in the 2016 national elections, with at least half or P1.303 trillion in automatic and lump sum appropriations that President Benigno Aquino III can quickly mobilize.

“This is similar to the 2012 budget that preceded the 2013 elections. The government cranks up spending for infrastructure and construction the year before elections. Concrete projects create the impression of growth, though it is a challenge to sustain this growth for the next years,” said former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, a convener of Social Watch Philippines.

“In Philippine politics, elections are all about money,” Briones said. “Government spending places incumbent politicians and their parties at an advantage over their opponents for the upcoming elections.”

“Projects are credited to officials as part of their track record as the ruling parties would spend for projects in their allies’ jurisdictions. Opposing parties can be deprived of this spending, putting them at a disadvantage,” Briones added.

“SWP’s assessment of the 2015 budget reveals that practically almost half of it can be considered lump sums due to the lack of details and mechanisms for clear accountability. This makes the funds vulnerable to abuse,” Briones said.

“Only P1.739 trillion is covered by the GAA.

The rest are automatic appropriations and therefore, not scrutinized by Congress. The President’s Special Purpose Fund is P378.603 billion, the Unprogrammed Expenditures is P123.056 billion, Internal Revenue Allotment is P389.860 billion, interest payments (debt servicing) is P372.863 billion. This does not include Malampaya Funds which are also automatically appropriated, and Off Budget funds like the Motor Vehicles Users’ Charge and those coming from PAGCOR [the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.],” Briones said.

* Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the Palace was laying the groundwork for institutionalizing presidential pork in the mold of its now discredited Disburesment Acceleration Program.

“Through a legislative sleight of hand, Aquino now wants to redefine the term savings in the six-volume General Appropriations Act, and thus empower the President to realign funds at the middle of the year,” Reyes said.

“This is dangerous considering that 2015 precedes an election year. The lump sum appropriations together with so-called early savings could thus be part of the Liberal Party’s campaign war chest,” Reyes said.

Instead of lump sums, Social Watch supports increasing allocations to agencies for social development, such as health, education and employment.

Agencies are required to make regular reports on their expenditures, making transparency and accountability easier to trace and establish.

“The presence of lump sums in the budget, especially for one that precedes the elections, makes public funds all the more vulnerable,” Briones said.

This early, however, and though 2014 is far from over, the Aquino administration has already estimated that the national government may retain some P251.78 billion in “savings” this year, said

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, citing the 2015 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

Based on the 2015 NEP submitted to Congress by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad last Wednesday, the government expects that some P251.78 billion of the P2.26 trillion national budget for the current year will not be spent.

Based on the adjusted values presented by the Department of Budget and Management in the 2015 NEP, only P1.74 trillion of the total P2.26 trillion budget for 2014 is available, Ridon said.

Of this amount, DBM projects that only P1.489 trillion would be spent this year.

Of the P251.78-billion estimated unused appropriation for 2014, unreleased appropriations account for P175.3 billion, while unobligated allotments account for an estimated P76.4 billion, Ridon said.

Unreleased appropriations are funds for approved programs, activities, and projects that have not been released by DBM.

Unobligated allotments are funds already available for disbursement but have not been spent by the implementing agency for various reasons, including the final discontinuance or abandonment of a certain program, activity or project.

“DBM’s P251.78 billion estimated savings for 2014 is greater than the actual amount spent or P144 billion for the 116 projects under the DAP,” Ridon said.

With such huge savings targeted by the national government, the re-emergence of DAP or another DAP-like mechanism in the near future will likely occur, Ridon said.

Reyes accused the Aquino government of eyeing more pork barrel funds in the 2015 budget as it prepares for the 2016 elections.

Reyes said his group expressed grave concern over reports of lump sum appropriations as well as proposals to redefines savings in the General Appropriations Act.

“Aquino is trying to reverse the people’s gains in abolishing all forms of pork barrel funds. He is obviously trying to circumvent the SC ruling vs DAP. He continues to push for the power to arbitrarily declare savings and realign funds to pet projects. He treats public funds as pork barrel funds spent under the sole discretion of his office. The term fiscal dictatorship has never been as real as it is now. Will Congress simply roll over and go along with this plan?” Reyes said.

“The public needs to closely scrutinize how the government is executing the 2014 national budget. Though the government claims that DAP has already been discontinued since December 2013, a similar mechanism might be in the works to ensure that savings would be incurred,” Ridon said.

Ridon also said the Executive department should not even try to implement new programs, activities, or projects not covered by the 2014 GAA through the estimated unused appropriations.

“However, I fear that the Aquino administration is at it again. Unfazed by the SC decision, the President and his cohorts might be devising a new plan to divert... public funds even as we speak,” Ridon said.

Ridon also called on DBM to account for the P203.4 billion actual unused appropriations for fiscal year 2013, as is shown in the 2015 NEP.

“Of the P203.4 billion actual unused appropriations for 2013, unreleased appropriations total P56.1 billion, while unobligated allotments account for P147.3 billion.

“The Executive branch must clearly disclose where these unused funds went. Did they tap the P203.4 billion unused appropriations for DAP? We are talking about billions of pesos here – a marginal note in the NEP is not enough,” Ridon said.

The House committee on appropriations has scheduled the preliminary hearing of the Palace’s proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015 on Aug. 6.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, the panel chairman, said his committee would thoroughly review the budget proposal of every government agency and find out if it is justifiable.

“We just received the budget bill. We are going to review, scrutinize the same and ask the agencies to explain the budget their respective offices proposed,” Ungab told the Manila Standard in a text message.

Next year’s spending plan includes a P2.7 billion budget to be used for the preparations for the eventual passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Earlier, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed to swiftly act on the budget proposal.

Critics have said the 2015 budget is “the most expensive budget” as it nearly doubled the P1.434- trillion budget of the previous administration in 2009 under former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The new budget proposal is 15.1 percent higher from the current year’s P2.265-trillion budget, representing 18.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and reflecting the jump in the administration’s growth assumption of 7.0-8.0 percent for 2015.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the budget was “an expression of the President’s unerring commitment to bring inclusive socio-economic development to the people.”

Government projects that 2 percent of the total budget or P283.7 billion will be the deficit for the year, which will be covered by loans for the next fiscal year.

At least 86 percent of the prospective loans will be sought from local sources while the rest from international funding agencies, Abad said.

By expense class, the budget for national defense will receive the biggest increase of 29 percent, followed by economic services with 18.1 percent and general public services with 16.7 percent.

The increased allocation for national defense, an obvious move to counter China’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea, is 4.4 percent of the total proposed General Appropriations Act.

Social services will receive 37 percent or P967.9 billion; economic services, 26.9 percent or P700.2 billion; general public services, P16.2 percent or P423.1 billion; and debt servicing P399.4 billion or 20.6 percent.

Now running for six years, the CCT program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which critics dismiss as mere dole to the poor, increased from P62 billion in 2014 to P64.7 billion with 4.4 million poor Filipinos as targeted beneficiaries.

The Department of Education remained on top of the proposed expenditures with an allocation of P364.95 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways with P300.51 billion and Department of National Defense with P144 billion.

Appropriations for the Department of Interior and Local Government are P141.423 billion; Department of Social Welfare Development, P108.9 billion; Department of Health, P102.1 billion; Department of Agriculture, P88.8 billion; Department Transportation and Communications, P59.463 billion; Department of Environment and Natural Resources P21.29 billion and the judiciary, P20.2 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday agreed with other administration allies that Congress can pass a law or joint resolution to redefine government “savings” to avoid having the Supreme Court rule actions taken by the Executive department as unconstitutional, as it did with the DAP.

He noted that one of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in interpreting the definition of savings pointed to Congress as that wielding the power of the purse.

He said the Supreme Court also noted that the Executive branch of government is tasked to enforce the laws made by Congress and to spend in accordance with the provisions of the GAA.

“Congress must recognize the need for flexibility in budget execution, and that savings should be actual,” said Cayetano, a staunch administration ally.

Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said he was confident Congress would support the President’s request that they redefine the term savings.

“We will define when they can be allowed to use savings, where and how, in accordance with the decision of the court,” said Escudero.

He guaranteed the Senate will ensure the P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget will comply with the recent Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the use of government savings without congressional approval.

“Again, I will make sure that the budget will be compliant with the decision of the Court. And we will not pass a law that is not compliant with it,” Escudero. With Macon Ramos-Araneta

FROM PHILSTAR

Budget as poll funds? Absurd, says Palace (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 3, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Absurd was how Malacañang described claims that the proposed national budget for next year could be used for the 2016 elections in view of its numerous lump sums and automatic appropriations.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte yesterday said the public could easily check the budget proposal and scrutinize where the funds would go.

“This is where you should hold us accountable because all the agencies and all the departments have put targets,” she said over radio dzRB.

She said the budget proposal now has six books from the previous two because of the details.

“For example, the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), when they propose a program, it should be accompanied with a budget and indicate their targets and objectives in putting it there,” she said. “We hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we put out the information.”

University of the Philippines professor and former national treasure Leonor Magtolis-Briones said almost half of the budget were lump sums and automatic appropriations, and warned that might turn out to be the biggest election budget in history.

“This is similar to the 2012 budget that preceded the 2013 elections. The government cranks up spending for infrastructure and construction the year before elections. Concrete projects create the impression of growth, though it is a challenge to sustain this growth for the next years,” she said.

Valte denied claims half of the budget would be at the discretion of the President, citing the Contingency Fund under the Special Purpose Fund, which would be used for calamities and other unforeseen expenses.

“I think the use of these funds in the last few years will show you that the funds are being spent well and that they are being allocated for the purposes for which the law intends them to be spent. That is clear and we can look at the track record of President Aquino when it comes to that. Everything is clear after auditing,” she said.

“Let us not confuse the public by throwing such kind of statement that when you look at it, it’s a half truth or it’s just being crafted to deceive the public,” she added.

Unfair

Meanwhile, Senate committee on finance chairman Sen. Francis Escudero said it was unfair for the critics of the administration to describe the lump sum items as the pork barrel fund of the President or an election budget.

In an interview over radio dwIZ, he said part of the lump sum items is the automatic appropriations, such as the internal revenue allotment and debt service.

* Escudero said the P14-billion calamity fund must also remain a lump sum since there is no way to itemize post-disaster relief, rehabilitation and repairs that have yet to take place.

He said lump sum items, classified as special purpose fund (SPF) of the President, are nowhere to be found in the proposed budget, he said.

He said the SPF could refer to assistance to government-owned and controlled corporations, contingency fund, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council fund, calamity fund, IRA and Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund.

He said that the biggest item is the MPBF, which amounts to P180 billion. The MPBF represents funding for filling vacancies in government.

Escudero noted that the MPBF is itemized in the sense that all existing unfilled positions in the respective agencies are known.

The Department of Budget and Management releases funds from the MPBF when there are actual appointments or hiring.

Line budgeting

Escudero said around 74 percent of the national budget is also subject to line item budgeting.

“Our aim is to increase this further. Our target is to have 80 to 85 percent of the budget itemized,” he said.

However, he said a small percentage would remain lump sum items because there is no way to make an itemized list during the budgetary process. – Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy

‘New savings rule cannot go against SC ruling’ By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 2, 2014 - 12:00am 0 373 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - While Congress is working on a definition of savings in the national budget, one of the leaders of the Senate believes this may not be the best course of action.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the Supreme Court (SC) had given general guidelines on how to determine savings as referred to in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget.

“Savings could be generated only upon the purpose of the appropriation being fulfilled, or upon the need for the appropriation being no longer existent,” the SC declared.

Cayetano said this meant that savings should be “actual savings.”

“The safeguards are already found in the SC decision. I am not against defining savings and passing a supplemental budget,” Cayetano said.

He agreed Congress has the power to define savings but only if this has not yet been covered in the Constitution or the rulings of the SC.

Cayetano explained whatever Congress comes out with as far as a definition of savings is concerned should be consistent with the ruling of the SC on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), particularly on the use of savings.

In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Aquino asked Congress to come out with a joint resolution to define savings.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said Congress would respond to the call of the President and come out with a joint resolution to define savings.

According to Cayetano, the problem with this move is that some people could see this as a way to circumvent the ruling of the SC on the DAP.

“If we define it in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, it will protect us against a plunderous president. But if we circumvent the law, not only is it promoting a plunderous president, even in this administration, it will be promoting secretaries to have less accountability,” Cayetano said.

“The definition has to be well crafted that it will not be perceived as circumventing the Supreme Court decision but rather it should be in furtherance really of public service,” he said.

* Cayetano said there is a guarantee that it would be questioned and reverted back to the SC. “And unlike the first case that many people agree there may be good faith, if you circumvent this, it is already bad faith,” he added.

Opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives said the Aquino administration is usurping the power of Congress if it continues to insist on a new definition of savings.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon warned of the dangers of the proposal.

Romualdez said if such is the case, the declared savings would be used to fund new projects and programs deliberated upon by Congress and listed in the national budget, which is a law.

“The early declaration of savings would not only affect or derail approved and studied projects it was taken from, but also would obviate the need for Malacañang to come to Congress and seek its permission for new or supplemental budget,” Romualdez said.

He said the executive branch seeking approval of lawmakers for its annual spending and Congress appropriating funds are part of the checks and balances in government.

Romualdez challenged his colleagues to block the huge lump sums in the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015 amounting to at least P500 billion.

Ridon, for his part, said Malacañang expects to retain at least P251.78 billion in “savings” for this year based on the proposed budget.

He said in the 2015 National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress last Wednesday, the government expects that some P251.78 billion of the P2.26-trillion GAA for 2014 will not be spent.

Of the P251.78-billion estimated unused appropriation for 2014, unreleased appropriations account for P175.3 billion, while unobligated allotments account for an estimated P76.4 billion, Ridon said.

Ridon said unreleased appropriations are funds for approved programs, activities and projects (PAPs) that have not been released by the Department of Budget and Management.

Meanwhile, unobligated allotments are funds already available for disbursement but have not been spent by the implementing agency for various reasons, including the final discontinuance or abandonment of a certain PAP.

Ridon said the Department of Budget and Management’s P251.78-billion estimated savings for 2014 are greater than the actual amount spent for the 116 projects under the DAP. – Paolo Romero

FROM THE GMA NEWS NETWORK

Escudero: Government needs lump-sum funds to respond to calamities By AMITA LEGASPI,GMA NewsJuly 31, 2014 4:42pm 579 16 0 596

Senator Francis Escudero (photo) said Thursday it is impossible to totally eliminate lump sum funds in the national budget even as neophyte senators said they will scrutinize the details of the proposed General Appropriations Act for 2015.

Escudero said lump-sum funds, which government critics have called the President’s pork barrel, give the government flexibility to respond to the immediate needs of the people.

“Hindi pupuwedeng zero lump sum talaga dahil kailangan mayroong kaunting flexibility ang gobyerno lalong-lalo na sa calamity funds at quick response fund,” the senator, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said in a phone-patch interview.

“Paano naman natin malalaman yung kalye o building na masisira, paano natin malalaman kung ano yung kailangan at a particular time depende sa kalamidad na tatama sa atin. Dapat may ganung flexibility ang gobyerno,” he added.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday that 29 percent, or P501.670 billion, of the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget is lump-sum funds or special purpose funds.

The allocations for the Office of the President that have yet to be itemized include the calamity fund, miscellaneous personnel benefit fund, pension and guarantee fund, contingency fund, Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and debt service payments.

Penalties for shelved, delayed projects?

Senators Nancy Binay and Benigno Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV said they will look into the budget proposals of different agencies, particularly after the issue on Disbursement Acceleration Program, closely.

“I think pagkatapos ng nangyari sa DAP, mas magiging detalyado ang pagsusuri namin pagdating sa budget. Aside from SPF (special purpose funds), itatanong ko yung mga DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) projects na approved na ng Congress pero hindi na bid out. Siguro ngayon dapat itanong sa lahat ng agencies kung OK na 'yung mga projects na isinubmit nila for approval, kung dumaan na sa test o kumpleto na ang dokumento,” Binay said in a weekly news forum.

During the Senate hearing on DAP, Binay pointed out that some DOTC projects that were approved and funded by Congress were shelved due to technical and structural issues.

Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee of Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said lawmakers must be vigilant and careful in scrutinizing next year’s budget to ensure every centavo of public money will go to its intended use and not in somebody’s pocket.”

Binay said she will file a bill imposing a penalty for delays in the implementation of Congress-approved projects.

“Dapat may liability. What if sinadya na hindi ituloy yung proyekto para maging savings yung pondo? It’s a possibility. We should avoid that window na puwedeng maabuso. May accountability dapat kung nade-delay ang proyekto,” she said.

Escudero, however, was wary of the proposal.

“We will look into that proposal, pero hindi naman ganun kasimple ang pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno. Paano kung may temporary restraining order na in-issue, hindi na-implement yung project. Paano kung may nagkaso bigla na hindi pa siya nababayaran ng right of way?” he said.

* Longer budget hearings

“Sa budget deliberation, magiging masusi, titiyakin ko at papapanagutin ko na yung ilalagay nilang amount dun sa proposal ay yun talaga ang ii-implement nila, at least best effort, at may posibilidad na maimplement,” the senator said.

He further said that DAP will be discussed during the budget deliberations even if it will mean longer hearings.

“It will prolong (the hearings) kailangan magtrabaho kami at kayo din hanggang gabi and even hanggang sa madaling araw. It (budget) should be passed kasi kung hindi ay merong napakalaking savings si President Aquino pag re-enacted ang budget just like what happened during the time of President Arroyo. I think that’s the last thing we want at this point,” he said. — JDS, GMA News

FROM PHILSTAR

DOTC eyes interconnection of NAIA 1 and 2 By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 2, 2014 - 12:00am 2 2 googleplus0 1


Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado, NAIA Terminal 3 manager Bing Lina and Delta Air officials observe the flow of departing passengers at the airport yesterday. RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is now looking at further expanding the capacity of the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport with the full operations at NAIA Terminal 3 to cope with the increasing number of tourists.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya yesterday said the government is mulling the interconnection of terminals 1 and 2 of NAIA.

Aside from building a NAIA Terminal 5, Abaya pointed out that the government is studying the possibility of augmenting the passenger capacities of both terminals 1 and 2.

“It will be better if we could bring NAIA Terminal 2 closer to Terminal 1. It will become more convenient for passengers to transfer,” he said on the sidelines of the inaugural flight of Delta Airlines and the opening of its Pacific Club lounge at NAIA 3.

Abaya said the government would first relocate the fuel depot between the two terminals so it could build a structure connecting both passenger terminal buildings.

Latest data from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) showed that the number of domestic and international passengers increased by 3.1 percent to 32.865 million last year from 31.877 million in 2012.

The four terminals in NAIA have a combined capacity of 30 million.

The DOTC chief earlier announced plans to put up a fifth terminal in NAIA. The building would rise beside the NAIA 3.

He added that the agency is now also resolving the issue concerning the Philippine Village Hotel that is partly owned by the state-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

He said the agency is just awaiting valuation of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the property so it could settle the amount with the GSIS.

“Whatever value – half of it or a fraction of it – will be paid to GSIS then we demolish the building and plan the expansion of Terminal 2,” he said.

He pointed out that the DOTC is also waiting for the recommendation of a consultant with regard to the planned P2-billion parallel runway that would result in more landings and take-offs.

The main issue of the proposed runway that could accommodate Airbus A320 aircraft, he said, is the dislocation of close to 600 families.

Delta Airlines has completed its relocation to NAIA 3 with the opening of its lounge yesterday. Other foreign airlines including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways are scheduled to transfer to NAIA 3 from NAIA 1 within the next two months.

Takenaka Corp. of Japan has completed the P1.9- billion rehabilitation of NAIA 3, paving the way for the transfer of the five foreign airlines.

Abaya said the transfer of the “Big Five” to NAIA 3 would decongest NAIA 1 by bringing the volume of passengers back to design capacity of four million from the current eight million.

On the other hand, the volume of passengers at NAIA 3 would increase to about 10 million compared to its design capacity of 13 million a year.

The DOTC chief cited a slight delay in the ongoing P1.3-billion rehabilitation of NAIA 1 being undertaken by DMCI Holdings that is supposed to be completed by January.

“About 80 percent of its passenger area should be done by end February next year. There will be lingering work underneath the passenger area but will not be felt by passengers,” he said.

Based on the recommendation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the DOTC is looking at putting into operation a new international airport probably at Sangley Point in Cavite by 2027 with the joint development of NAIA in Manila and the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The government is open to evaluating the proposal of SMC to put up a new $10-billion airport in a 1,600-hectare property owned by CyberBay Corp. along the Manila-Cavite coastal road. – With Rudy Santos

P-Noy keeps P300-M intel, confidential fund By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 2, 2014 - 1:00am 6 6 googleplus0 0


Yellow flowers, candles and ribbons as well as an image of a Time magazine cover adorn the tomb of former President Corazon Aquino as her children, led by President Aquino, marked her fifth death anniversary at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City yesterday. VAL RODRIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is retaining lump sums of P150 million for “intelligence expenses” and another P150 million for “confidential expenses” while reducing funding for his own office by P223 million.

The 2015 budget proposal increased by P341 billion to P2.606 trillion from this year’s P2.26 trillion.

The proposed budget Aquino submitted to Congress on Wednesday through Budget Secretary Florencio Abad shows that funding for the Office of the President (OP) proper would go down from this year’s P2.791 billion to P2.568 billion.

In 2013, Aquino’s office had P2.295 billion.

The decrease in appropriations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) like equipment purchase accounts for the reduction.

MOOE would go down from P1.998 billion this year to P1.911 billion in 2015, while CO would fall from P183.4 million to just P20 million.

However, provisions for salaries would go up by P28 million from P608.3 million to P636.9 million.

Aside from a combined P300-million intelligence-confidential fund, the OP would have P172.4 million for travel, P434.5 million for subsidies and donations, P137.3 million for professional services (hiring of consultants), P95.2 million for utilities, P85.6 million for repair and maintenance, P67.3 million for training and scholarship, P97.4 million for rentals, P15.9 million for advertising and P64.4 million for representation expenses.

*   The OP has 1,251 authorized personnel positions, 859 of which are filled, while 392 are vacant.

Funding for the filling of vacant jobs is included in a lump sum called Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPDF) and forms part of government savings if unused.

Abad has said MPBF savings between 2011 and 2013 were used to fund the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.

According to a Commission on Audit report on salaries and allowances of high-ranking officials in the bureaucracy, the OP proper has 55 officers with the rank of secretary, undersecretary and assistant secretary.

The highest paid among them, Rene Almendras, who is Cabinet secretary, earned P1.837 million in 2013, slightly higher than the P1.802 million that Ronald Llamas pocketed.

Llamas, who is presidential adviser on political affairs and holds the rank of secretary, had in the past attracted controversy. He was once photographed buying fake DVDs from a Quiapo shop.

Llamas earned more than Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who received P1.780 million. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda took home P1.760 million.

Another presidential adviser, Danilo Cortez, pocketed P1.804 million.

VP’s budget

Vice President Jejomar Binay will have P222.6 million for next year, up by more than P5 million from this year’s P217.3 million.

The bulk of his 2015 budget – P177.7 million – will be for “ceremonial and technical support services.”

Some P47.5 million will be for salaries. His office has 96 in authorized personnel positions, of which 84 are filled.

Binay will not have an intelligence fund, but he will have P86 million for the grant of “financial assistance/subsidy” to people seeking his help.

He will also have P23.9 million for travel, P6 million for communication expenses, P15 million for representation expenses, P13.5 million for consultants, and P8.9 million for rentals.

The COA report on salaries and allowances shows that the highest paid officer in Binay’s office is Benjamin Martinez Jr., his chief of staff.

Martinez took home P1.6 million in 2013, while his assistant, Rosalie Licauco, earned P1.4 million.

Classrooms and sanitation facilities

The administration has allocated some P52.7 billion for new classrooms and sanitation facilities under the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015.

Abad said the amount is allocated to “basic education facilities” that include 31,728 new classrooms and 13,586 “water and sanitation facilities,” presumably toilets and wash areas.

The government has also allocated some P2 billion for the Training for Work scholarship program of the Technical Education and Livelihood Skills Development Authority to train 210,526 workers in agri-fishery, tourism, semi-conductor and electronics and other fields.

The proposed 2015 national budget was submitted to the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed speedy passage of the measure to ensure the continued delivery of basic services and further boost growth.

‘Budget increase justified’

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas meanwhile said yesterday the 15 percent increase in the proposed budget was justified as the spending program was meant to boost growth.

He said the proposed spending program “would cement President Aquino’s legacy not just as one who brought vibrance to the country’s economy

but one who institutionalized a budget system that that ensures spending within means, on the right priorities, and with measurable results.”

“This is solid proof that good governance is good economics,” Treñas said.

“We have a 15.1 percent increase in our budget compared to last year because with the Aquino administration’s success in plugging all the leaks in our public spending, we are now generating more money to spend. Hence, we can now afford to have a bigger national budget.”

He said the proposed national outlay is focused on priority programs and projects that seek to ensure inclusive and sustained development so that the people can finally feel the effects of the country’s economic growth.

“People are constantly complaining that they do not feel the effects of our improving economy but truthfully, this is easier said than done. The government cannot do this overnight but we are now seeing the beginnings of a wider and more sustained inclusive development that directly impacts on our people, particularly the poorest of the poor,” he said.

He said Aquino’s fiscal management reforms have allowed the government to stop billions of public funds from being squandered to corruption and wasteful government projects.

“The budget is now focused on employment and livelihood generation to uplift the lives of the poorest of the poor, including the tens of thousands of families whose lives and dreams were devastated by the recent calamities,” he said.

He said the administration’s “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process” has allowed the involvement of community-based organizations and local civil service organizations to engage 1,633 cities and municipalities in developing the 2015 national budget that focuses on local poverty reduction programs and projects.

This participatory budgeting process, he said, led to a larger allocation of P20.9 billion in 2015, from P8 billion in 2013 and P20 billion in 2014, to fund local projects, such as potable water supply, agricultural infrastructure and facilities support, rural healthcare

facilities and sustainable livelihood programs.

RH services and products

Aquino is seeking P3.3 billion for reproductive health (RH) services and products.

Abad said the funding would implement the RH Law and would be used principally to make family planning commodities and services available to women and local government units, and to provide vitamin A supplement to children below five years of age.

The proposed budget also includes P13.1 billion for the upgrading of 128 local government hospitals, 11 treatment and rehabilitation centers and more than 1,800 city, municipal and rural health centers.

Funding is provided for the hiring of 12,540 nurses, 5,749 midwives, 480 dentists and 398 doctors.

“The administration is hiring more health workers and building better facilities to prevent citizens from getting sick and paying more for costly treatment,” Aquino said in his budget message to Congress.

Some 15.4 million indigent Filipinos will be covered by health insurance under PhilHealth in 2015, with the government paying for their coverage.

The budget also includes another P3.3 billion for the immunization of 2.2 million children.

“A good healthcare system builds the stamina of workers to fuel the daily grind of the economy,” Aquino said.

“A broken healthcare system leads to most citizens paying for their own treatment due to lack of insurance, or to not seeing a medical professional in their lifetimes due to a lack of health facilities in their communities.”

He said the sin tax reform law has enabled the government to provide better health services.

The current Congress approved the law after previous Congresses failed to pass it for more than 16 years, allowing tobacco and alcohol companies to enjoy lower tax rates.

The sin tax reform measure increased such rates and provided for an automatic adjustment mechanism.

The Supreme Court recently declared the RH Law as constitutional. The statute is another legislation that took Congress more than 10 years to pass.

Former lawmaker Edcel Lagman, an author of the RH bill in the House, said the recent increase of the country’s population to 100 million should prompt the government to vigorously implement the RH law.

“An increasing population imperils infinite resources and strains limited budgets,” he said.

He said the government should now extend reproductive health care, services and products to marginalized people who are willing acceptors of RH and family planning programs.

He said the Department of Health (DOH) should immediately procure medically safe, legal and effective contraceptives and devices for distribution to the poor and to the local government units.

The DOH should also retrain barangay health workers “so that they could competently assist in the implementation of the RH Law,” he added. – With Paolo Romero

TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

Noy’s bubble ready to burst Written by Tribune Editorial Saturday, 02 August 2014 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print 1 comment

Noynoy’s economic make-believe world where the Philippines is supposedly catching up with the rest of Asia seems ready to burst after credit rating firm Fitch Ratings said in a review that it may withdraw the investment grade on the Philippines due to low per capita income and low government spending.

Fitch was the first credit watchdog to grant an investment grade to the country mostly as a result of an aggressive lobbying from mainly Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima who is well-connected among multilateral institutions.

Purisima’s pitch then was that the Philippines was underrated and the sought investment grade was long overdue.
He did hit the target with even Standard and Poor’s giving the country a two-notch above investment rating recently.

Apparently, Fitch is now doing a double take, realizing that the claimed economic expansion is not reaching most of the population and the administration of Noynoy is not doing much to change the situation.

Fitch noted that low incomes, a poor governance, compared with “BBB” range peers are key sovereign weaknesses of the country.

Nonetheless, the ratings agency, in its Asia-Pacific Sovereign Credit Overview in July, affirmed the investment grade rating with a stable outlook.

Official records show that the country’s $2,500 to $3,000 per capita income is way below the $4,000 to $5,000 per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of countries with the same investment grade.

* Economists had indicated that the GDP would need to expand at least seven percent for the per capita income to rise and thus turn into a reality inclusive growth, which four years into Noynoy’s term remains an empty catch phrase.

Growth, however, is slowing down. In the first quarter, GDP grew by a mere 5.7 percent compared with 7.7 percent a year earlier. In 2013, the GDP managed a 7.2 percent growth from a 6.8 percent expansion in 2012 which was the highest growth rate achieved in Asia.

The supposed growth, however, was more of an illusion since its main driver was the election spending as a result of the national polls in May, 2013 and the steady growth of remittance inflows that perpetually feed consumer spending which is not replenishing.

Fitch said the inflow of overseas Filipinos’ remittances, growth in the business process outsourcing industry and low interest rates continue to be the main drivers of growth.

It is a lesson in economics that no country had prospered without some form of industrial base and the local industries are now totally overrun by low-cost imports and worse, smuggled goods.

The advent of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic bloc next year is expected to make matters more problematic for the Philippine economy since it will have to compete with its neighbors which have strong economic bases.

Since the start of his presidency, Noynoy has not been able to show a credible economic blueprint for the country except for the private-public partnership (PPP) program which is now acknowledged as a complete failure.

His administration is claiming that seven PPPs had taken off but it is nearly the twilight of his administration and none has yet resulted in giving the economy any discernible boost.

In his recent State of the Nation Address last week, still there was no indication of any economic plan for the remaining two years of his administration.

There was a threat issued on rice hoarders with Noynoy saying their racket will be matched by massive rice importation to supposedly flush out the withheld rice stocks.

Everybody knows that massive importation of rice was also undertaken during the dying years of the administration of Gloria Arroyo in making available low-cost rice to disaster victims.

Now we have low-cost rice vs hoarders also through massive importation.

It was Noynoy and his cohorts themselves who assailed the practice saying it was the source of massive kickbacks and commissions.

Well, same old, same old.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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