Lacson questions P54-B allocation for House Reps in 2020 budget

Maris Federez   •   September 23, 2019   •   812

Senator Panfilo Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday (September 23) questioned the P54-Billion allocated for House representatives (HOR) in the 2020 proposed national budget.

“In the initial information that we received, each Deputy speaker, 22 of them, will be receiving an additional allocation of P1.5-B. So that’s P33-B and each congressman will be given an allocation of P700-M,” Lacson said.

The senator sought to have the matter thoroughly checked to ensure that it is not a pork barrel.

Lacson claimed that he got the information from a member of the Lower House.

But based on the statement made by House Committee on Ways and Means chairman Joey Salceda, they are only allocating P100-M to each congressman, which, he said, is based on the need of their respective districts.

Lacson, however, said that the allocation is still questionable, as he is not sure if it had gone through the intense scrutiny of the lower house and the agencies that could be the recipient of such funds.

“Hindi naman dapat pare-pareho ang allocation sa district [Allocation for each district need not be identical]. It should be need-based and priority-based,” he added.

The senator stressed that the law provides that a government agency or a particular district should have already identified a project and the details of which are already itemized in the budget proposal before the said fund is released to them.

“Kung ii-introduce pa lang nila as amendments o individual amendments, lalabas bawat isa sa kanila may P100M [If they will introduce it as admendments or individual amendments, it will turn out that each of them will have P100-M]. Then, if it is not pork, I don’t know what it is,” Lacson further stressed.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, maintained that the fund is not a pork barrel, as it is intended for the construction of flyovers, seaports, airports, and other major highways in their districts.

He also argued that the Senate can scrutinize the budget in the bicameral conference.

“I think Congressman Salceda was just being frank na concern pa rin yung bawat congressman na hindi ma-zero or hindi maisahan yung kaniyang lugar at wala masyadong pondo. Pero walang nakatagong pork,” Cayetano asserted.

[I think Congressman Salceda was just being frank that the congressmen are concerned that their districts will not be left behind and be without a budget. But there is no hidden pork in it.] (from the report of Grace Casin) /mbmf

House begins plenary debates on proposed economic charter changes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Monday started its plenary deliberations on proposals seeking to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., the chairperson of House committee on constitutional amendments, sponsored Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 in the plenary, signifying the start of the entire chamber’s discussion on the proposed changes in the economic provisions of the country’s charter.

In his sponsorship speech, Garbin stressed that passing the resolution will give the government the freedom to adopt measures that will pave the way for economic development.

“It is wise for Congress to amend the Constitution by adding the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in order to give the government enough flexibility to consider different circumstances prevailing at different stages our road to economic development before formulating policies that should be time-bound,” he said.

Garbin emphasized that economic conditions “are never static, so must the fundamental law be freed from the constraint of rigidity. While it is reduced to writing, it should not be devoid of the element of flexibility.”

The House panel earlier approved RBH No. 2 which aims to amend existing economic provisions in the Philippine charter to open up the country to foreign investors in a bid to help the pandemic-battered economy to recover.

Garbin noted observations that the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions “have proven to be a bane, rather than a boon for the country, for they have restricted or discouraged the flow of foreign direct investments.”

“While these provisions may be very well-meaning and appear to favor the interests of Filipinos, over the long haul, the country and the common good of all Filipinos suffer,” he added.

The lawmaker also said that the Philippines should not be afraid to compete in today’s global economy as he stressed on the need to amend or eliminate overly protective provisions to attract more foreign investments.

The legislator was referring to provisions of the Constitution that limit foreign ownership in business enterprises operating in the country, including public utilities.

While the solon reminded his fellow lawmakers that all Filipinos are duty-bound to respect and obey the Constitution, “the obligation to respect, obey and to dutifully protect does not equate to permanence.”

“It does not mean that the tenets therein would no longer be changed if change is necessary and if change is desired by the people.”

Garbin earlier said that the House plans to approve the resolution on third and final reading before Congress goes on recess on March 27.

House to pass bill on vaccine indemnity fund on Feb. 22 – Velasco

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to approve on Monday, February 22, a bill seeking to establish an indemnification fund and expedite the procurement of vaccines against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the lower chamber is expected to pass House Bill No. 8648 on second and third readings after the measure was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“As soon as we were apprised that the indemnification fund is a requirement of the vaccine manufacturers, we wasted no time in filing House Bill 8648, which would allow emergency procurement of vaccines and provide the required indemnification fund,” Velasco said in a statement.

House Bill 8648 proposes to provide exemptions to compliance by local government units with the procurement requirements under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act in the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic.

The bill pushes for the vaccines to be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees, provided that the shots to be acquired by LGUs “shall only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.”

The bill is now up for second reading after it was approved by the Committee on Appropriations and sponsored in plenary.

Aside from the vaccine indemnification bill, Velasco said the House is also prepared to pass the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan 3), which proposes a P420-billion fund for the implementation of much-needed COVID-19 response and recovery interventions.

The proposal also includes a P25-billion budget for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines.

The House speaker said the lower chamber has always been supportive of the national government’s efforts to fight COVID-19 noting the passage of the 2021 national budget, which includes a P72.5 billion allocation for vaccine procurement, as well as the Bayanihan 1 and 2.

“Rest assured that the House will continue to pass legislation that would help sustain the national government’s efforts in addressing the pandemic, so we can all return to normal at the soonest possible time,” he said.

Speaker Velasco files P420-B Bayanihan 3 bill

Freema Gloria   •   February 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco has filed a bill proposing a P420-billion fund to further help stimulate the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release, Velasco, together with Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo filed last Thursday (February 4) House bill 8628 or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known Bayanihan 3.

The proposed bill has so far gained support from 115 members of major political parties and power blocs comprising the supermajority in the lower chamber of Congress, and expressed their intent to co-author the said bill.

The House Speaker believes that while the two previous Bayanihan laws — the Bayanihan to Heal As One, and Bayanihan to Recover As one — have helped with the initial capacity of the government to respond to the impact of COVID-19 crisis, these were “not sufficient for the genuine economic recovery of the country”.

“Given that actual economic output in 2020 was far below what was assumed for budget purposes, and further losses may still be incurred as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to prevail well into the current fiscal year, an additional economic stimulus package is needed to help the government meet its recovery targets for the year,” Velasco pointed out.

The proposed P420-B appropriation under Bayanihan 3 has been breakdown into the following:

• P52 billion for subsidies to small business for wages and other worker-related expenses;

• P100 billion for the capacity-building of businesses in critically impacted sectors;

• P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households through programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development;

• P70 billion for the provision of assistance and capacity-building to farmers, livestock producers and fishermen;

• P30 billion for the implementation of unemployment assistance and cash-for-work programs under the Department of Labor and Employment;

• P30 billion for internet allowances to primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers in public and private educational institutions;

• P5 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas, including the repair, reconstruction and/or construction of flood control works, roads, bridges, public buildings and other damaged public works, to be distributed proportionately among provinces and cities affected;

• P25 billion to the Department of Health for the procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to finance logistics, information awareness campaigns, and other related operational expenses.

Velasco stressed that the government must take the lead to promote business and consumer confidence and social welfare. He further stated, “Increased, well-targeted spending is a vital step to achieving these goals”

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