House Appropriations Committee Chair Davao City Representing Karlo “Ang Probinsyano” Nograles on Tuesday expressed great concern over the slashed budgets of key agencies under the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 presented to the panel by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC).
Nograles noted that the proposed 2019 budget—which is cash-based—was P10 billion lower than the current P3.767-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“Let’s address the elephant in the room. You are coming to ask a budget that’s P10 billion lower in absolute terms. All of us here are concerned with the reductions in various departments and agencies namely the DOH, DepEd and DPWH,” Nograles told Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which is part of the DBCC.
According to the Davao solon, the budget of the Depart-ment of Health (DOH) was decreased by P35 billion; Department of Education (DepEd), by P77 billion; and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) by P95 billion.
There were also P5-billion reductions in the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
Nograles said the significant budget reductions would hurt the delivery of projects, especially in the rural areas. This would leave his fellow probinsyanos out in the cold when it comes to development programs.
“For 2019, ang hirap na man ipaliwanag sa mga kababayan natin na nag-reduce tayo ng mga classrooms, nag-reduce tayo ng mga barangay health units, nag-reduce tayo ng roads dahil mayroon tayong ginagawang ganitong cash-based.”
“Lalung lalo na may pinasa tayong TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law, gumawa tayo ng mga taxes dito. Ano naman ang sasabihin namin sa mga kababayan namin,” the Appropriations panel chair said.
“All of these concerns could have been addressed if DBCC came to us with a bigger budget. I personally was expecting a budget of at least P3.9 trillion,” Nograles reckoned.
The proposed 2019 national budget is cash-based as opposed to traditional, multi-year obli-gations-based budgeting. The DBM has described it as the more efficient budgeting method since it limits incurring obligations and disbursing payments for goods delivered and services rendered, inspected and accepted within the fiscal year.
Diokno argued to the panel that the proposed 2019 budget and the existing 2018 budget can’t be compared as “apples to apples” since one is cash-based while one is obligations-based. Thus, the P10 billion reduction is “misleading,” he said.
But Nograles maintained that, for its perceived faults, obligation-based budgeting is still the preferred method if cash-based would mean decimating the funds intended for developing the countryside.
“Ang nakikita po nila ngayon ng mga economic managers natin, based sa pera na inaallocate ng kongreso sa iba’t ibang mga departamento at ahensya, mabilisang pag-obligang pondo. Obligated, meaning to say, para hindi mag-revert ang funds, inoobligate nila before the year ends. Kapag sinabing obligated, may gagawa na nung proyekto. Masisimulan na.
“Pero yung kabagalan doon sa pagsisimula at pag-iimple-ment at sa pagkukumpletong proyekto, doon nagkakaroon ng aberya. At dahil nagkakaroon ng aberya, kaya ang ginawa pong DBCC, ng DBM, mag-cash based po tayo. And that was the whole concept of the Budget Reform Bill (BRB) na pinasa ng Kongreso.
“But nowhere in our agreement, with the BRB at itong cash-based na ito, did we ever talk about slash, slash, slash,” he said.
Nograles said the bottom line is finding a way to deliver on the promises made by the Duterte administration to the public.
“We passed the TRAIN law, we promised so many things to our kababayans. We come back to them and we say, hold muna tayo sa [school] buildings, hold muna tayo sa barangay health centers, hold muna tayo sa infrastructure projects. How do we explain that to them?” he said.