Members of the bicameral conference committee have agreed to restore the P50 billion slashed in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), breaking an impasse that hobbled negotiations to reconcile conflicting provisions of the budget measures.
The bicam panel hopes to pass the proposed P3.767-trillion 2018 budget before congress goes on recess on December 13.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, House Appropriations Committee chairman, said the two houses of congress are “over the hump” and are holding meetings to iron out kinks.
“Last week there was sort of an impasse between the two panels, the House and the Senate, because of several budget cuts that was done by the Senate which did not sit well with members of the House panel. So we had to find a way for us to be able to break that impasse,” Nograles said.
“The good news is it has been broken. [On Monday,] we came into an agreement that the budget cuts that were done by the Senate particularly on DPWH will no longer push through based on our meetings so that will not carry in the Bicameral Committee version,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson was one of several lawmakers who proposed that the budget of the DPWH be shaved by P50 billion.
The amount was restored after Budget officials explained that the money will be used to fund the Build Build Build program.
“What Senator Lacson wanted was, let’s do right of way without the civil works. The problem [with that]is we very well know that once you are able to get the settlers to relocate but they don’t see any infrastructure being done, then chances are those settlers will come back. And there might be even more,” Nograles said.
“On the ground, right of way issues really have to be resolved while the project is being conducted. So it’s like a chicken and egg problem. If you don’t put the budget for right of way then you don’t have anything for the government to use in order for the settlers there to vacate,” he added.
Nograles said P900 million of the Philippine National Police’s budget for the war on drugs will be realigned to the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the housing program of the police and military personnel.
An additional P20 billion will be given to be used for the increase in the salaries of soldiers, policemen and other uniformed personnel.