Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Thursday admitted that there are indeed lump sums in the proposed 2016 national budget but they are not like what administration critics are alleging them to be.
Speaking during the continuation of the briefing on the 2016 National Expenditure Program (NEP), Abad said there are actually two lump sums in the proposed budget for next year and these are the calamity fund and the contingency fund.
But he said the two items were lump sums because they could not be provided with details like the other items in the budget.
“The first one is the calamity fund and this pertains to the calamity fund proper because, in the Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation, there are actually programs and projects here that were approved in October 2014,” Abad told members of the Senate finance committee.
He explained that while the calamity fund is under the Office of the President, it is the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that processes it based on recommendations of a local government unit affected by a calamity.
Abad said the calamity fund, which is being kept by the National Treasury, could only be released upon the endorsement of the NDRRMC.
The Budget secretary identified a third lump sum, which is the share of the local government units (LGUs) from national proceeds from mining, power plants and other projects.
According to Abad, the fund is the entitlement of LGUs on certain laws that can be specified and they have agreed to disaggregate it.
“For example, the share of a local government from a mining company insofar as excise taxes are concerned. You cannot immediately specify because you cannot determine yet the amount that will be paid by the mining company in terms of the excise taxes from which the LGU will share,” he said.
The Budget secretary dismissed perception that the special purpose fund (SPF) amounting to P434.32 billion would be under the sole discretion of the President.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, asked Abad to identify specific items in the special purpose funds under the 2016 NEP in order to erase doubts.
Drilon also asked the Budget department to present specific sites, projects and activities that would be funded under the Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation program.
He noted that the disaster happened more than two years ago and there should already be specific projects that can be shown already.
Militant party-list lawmakers earlier claimed that the 2016 proposed national budget is “filled” with lump sums. ;
With the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel deemed illegal, the government is asking Congress to increase the Local Government Support Fund (LGSF) from P3 billon in 2015 to P18 billion next year.
The P18-billion LGSF is broken down into P200 million Financial Assistance to Local Government Units for their various priority programs and projects; P11 billion for Bottom Up Budgeting projects; and P6.5 billion for rehabilitation and upgrade of provincial roads.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon sees something fishy in the 400 percent hike in LGSF, which he said looks like a resurrected pork barrel.
Each member of the House of Representatives used to have an annual discretionary fund called PDAF worth P70 million, which they spent for scholarships, financial assistance for hospital expenses, as well as roads, bridges and classrooms.
The senators, who have a national constituency, have a bigger PDAF allocation of P200 million.
The PDAF, however, was outlawed by the Supreme Court in November 2013 after the unmasking of shady schemes in the fund’s disbursement.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI