House suspends DOH budget hearing

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020   •   85

MANILA, Philippines – The House Committee on Appropriations on Monday (September 14) suspended its deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH). 

Lawmakers seemed unconvinced by how DOH will manage its budget, particularly on funding rural health facilities. 

“Without a plausible explanation, walang malinaw na pagpapaliwanag dito sa pondong ito, Madam Chair, I move to suspend the approval of the budget of the Department of Health,” Anak Kalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor which the House Committee approved.

Defensor questioned why the agency is only giving a small amount to primary health care facilities such as barangay health stations when these are supposedly the first to respond to community health concerns.

“Pumunta ka doon sa barangay na iyon hindi ka magagamot doon [When you go to barangay, you won’t be treated],” Defensor argued adding that the DOH should focus on these barangay health facilities. 

“Focus doon ang pondo. Pagandahin talaga. Kesa iyong ganitong tinapon lang nila [The funding should focus on that. Improve the facility rather than wasting (resources)],” he added.

Bulacan Representative Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, meanwhile, believes something is wrong with the project.

“Nangangamoy ito na korapsyon [It smells like corruption],” he said.

For this year, the DOH has allotted P8.38B for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program while it proposes P4.78B for the said program for 2021.

DOH Undersecretary Lilibeth David answered that it could probably be that those which received small allocations were projects that are close to completion and only need few procurements.

“Equiping muna. The second is completing ang structure. Kunwari 90%, 80%, 70% na lang ang kailangang i-complete kaya nag iiba-iba ang amounts [First is equipping. Second is completing the structure. So for example, 90% to go, then 80% to go, 70% before completion so the amount varies],” she explained.

In response to David, Nueva Ecija 2nd District Representative Micaela Violago argued otherwise as she sees barangay health units that are lacking in equipment.

“Marami akong barangay health unit na walang gamit kaya ginagawa na rin talagang bodega. Walang kama, wala lahat, walang weighing scale, wala. Kaya sayang yung naging pondo ng building para gawin lamang bodega ng barangay [I have seen a lot of barangay health units without equipment so the structures are eventually turned into storage facilities. No beds, no weighing scale, nothing. So the funds are just wasting in construction of edifices only to end up as storage houses for barangays],” she said. 

The DOH is proposing more than P203-B for the year 2021, an amount higher by P27-B as compared to the agency’s budget this year.

The largest chunk amounting to P127-B will go to the Office of the Health Secretary while 35% of the budget amounting to P71-B will go to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for its implementation of the Universal Health Care Law. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Office of the President proposes P4.5B intel fund

Marje Pelayo   •   September 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers on Monday (September 14) questioned the P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence fund proposed by the Office of the President as part of its P8.2 billion overall proposed budget for 2021.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Ilago asked why such an amount is deemed confidential.

“Bakit higit sa kalahati ng pondo ng presidente ay patagong ginagamit,” Ilado said. 

In response, the Office of the President explained that the confidential and intelligence fund has a wide coverage to maintain peace and order in the country especially against terrorism.

The fund is not reported as detailed as other funds because it concerns national security.

Deputy Executive Secretary Alberto Bernardo clarified that the country needs more protection in the middle of the pandemic.

“Napatunayan natin na kahit na may pandemya ng COVID ay mayroon pa rin tayong mga bombers na nangyayari dito sa Sulu. Marami pa ring nagsasamantala na terorista para pabagsakin ang seguridad ng bansang ito kaya mas nangangailangan tayo ng proteksyon,” Bernardo explained.

On the other hand, some lawmakers support the increase on the Office of the Vice President’s proposed budget amounting to P679 million.

Vice president Leni Robredo, who herself attended the hearing, said they originally requested P720 million from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Robredo noted that despite the limitations, her office has already served almost half a million beneficiaries under the Angat Buhay program with most of the resources coming from the private sector.

“In essence what we’re doing is just trying to fill-in the gaps. We are fully aware that our office is very small. We are very small not just with the number of staff that we have but we’re small in terms of resources. So we are making do with what we have,” the vice president said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

P4.1-T 2020 budget gets nod in House committee level

Maris Federez   •   September 9, 2019

The House Committee on Appropriations has approved the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020.

This, following the series of budget briefings that were conducted for all the departments and their line agencies.

Prior to its approval, the house panel conducted an executive session, which Committee on Appropriations Chair Isidro Ungab said has become a tradition in the lower house of Congress.

Ungab reported that the approval of the bill had been a breeze.

“There were no objections, only manifestations, madali lang na-approve namin,” Ungab said.

This marked the beginning of the plenary debate Ungab will defend the committee-level approved budget.

The plenary debate will pave the way for other congressmen to contest or question the appropriated fund in some government agencies.

With this, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has appealed for the cooperation of his fellow lawmakers for the immediate passage of the proposed budget.

Meanwhile, Ungab has earlier admitted that there had been attempts from other congressmen to insert around P70-B to P90-B in the budget for the public works projects in their respective districts.

“I have to be prank and honest. Mahirap talaga kasi malaki yung amount. Mahirap ma-entertain yung kanilang request,” Ungab said.

He assured, however, that there was no pork barrel inserted in the national budget.

The plenary debate is expected to run for two weeks, with the approval of the budget to take place before the first session break on October 4. (from the report of Joan Nano) /mbmf

Solons deny Sen. Lacson’s allegation of ‘pork barrel’ in 2019 Nat’l budget

Marje Pelayo   •   December 6, 2018

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Panfilo Lacson

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The House Committee on Appropriations strongly denied that there had been billions of pesos worth of insertions for two congressmen’s pet projects in the proposed 2019 National Budget as accused by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Specifically, Lacson mentioned a more than P2-billion additional fund intended for the second district of Pampanga.

Though Lacson did not name the involved lawmaker, he was clearly pointing at House Speaker Gloria Arroyo’s district in Pampanga.

But Acting Committee Chair Maria Carmen Zamora stressed that they only provided P1.9-billion, not P2.2-billion, to Arroyo.

“I don’t see any Congress person na may ganoon kalaking increase. I don’t agree na nabuhusan ng proyekto ang distrito ng Pampanga,” Zamora said.

But according to Makabayan bloc, budget insertions are common among lawmakers which they divide among their local officials. In fact, according to ACT Teachers Party list Rep. Antonio Tinio, insertions as such are more massive among the senators.

“Hindi lang sa Kongreso o House of Representatives nangyayari iyan. Sa Senate din ang mas malaki pa nga na mga insertions,” he alleged.

But Zamora maintained that the budget allocations to each of the congressmen all depends on the needs of their respective districts.

“We make sure the reason is equitable distribution based on the needs ng ating mga distrito,” she said. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

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