THE bicameral conference committee tackling the P3.767 trillion 2018 Budget is expected to restore most of the proposed cuts to the funding of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which was initially at risk of giving up allocations for projects with right-of-way problems.
Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said: “We’re still finalizing but much of the P50.7 billion cut will be restored. So, we’re looking at probably, P4 billion to be cut.”
The House members of the bicameral committee were concerned that the budget cuts, initiated by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, would delay the government’s infrastructure projects.
Citing the level of unused funds in previous public works programs, Mr. Lacson had sought to trim funding from projects with unresolved right-of-way issues.
But Mr. Nograles said the DPWH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) successfully defended most of the allocations on Monday.
“I think Monday the DBM and DPWH were able to explain very well that these were part of the Build, Build, Build Program of the Duterte administration. And that the P50.7 billion cuts will really affect the infrastructure program of the DPWH and the administration.”
Mr. Nograles said there were risks in delaying funding pending the resolution of right-of-way issues, particularly the problem of squatting on land set aside for infrastructure.
“Once you are able to get the settlers to relocate, and they don’t see any infrastructure being done, then chances are those settlers will come back, and there might be even more,” Mr. Nograles said.
Mr. Lacson, for his part, said: “Many people complained (about the cuts) at the bicameral conference. My only consolation is that I found out which members of Congress were looking after their pork. It was those who were defending the projects. So we found out that there is really pork in the Budget.” — Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz