A lawmaker has questioned the proposed P7 billion lump sum in the 2016 budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA), saying the agency only claimed that the money will be used to construct farm-to-market roads (FMRs).
Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list said the DA only identified the regions where FMRs will be constructed, not a specific province or district.
“Essentially, the FMR budget is still a lump sum. Legislators can just work around the said provision by simply writing to DA to request for FMR funds. What’s stopping legislators and other unscrupulous officials from nominating pet road projects?” Ridon pointed out.
“How can we fulfill our duty to the public when the FMR budget is just one big lump sum? How do we know that these would really go to farm-to-market roads, not farm-to-mayor’s house roads?” he added.
The lawmaker casts doubt on Section 3.9 of the DA budget’s special provisions that pertain to post-enactment modification of project details.
This provision authorizes Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to change the location or scope of work or the approved network plan subject to the following: the allotment released has not been obligated; it may only be done once and until June 30, 2016, except if due to the occurrence of calamities; it is of the same project category; and it will be undertaken by same operating unit.
“Again, this is a provision that intends to revive and legalize DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program). If this provision is passed, there is no stopping the Executive Department from inserting and implementing pet projects of their choosing,” Ridon warned.
The Supreme Court has declared the DAP unconstitutional.
DAP is a spending program which allowed the agencies under the Executive branch to declare their unspent appropriations as savings and realign these funds to the administration’s priority projects, including those proposed by lawmakers.
Ridon said the Agriculture department’s proposed budget is peppered with other lump sum funds such as P586.7 million for the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan Program, P500 million for quick response funds, P1.2 billion for “small-scale irrigation projects,” and P2.6 billion for bottom-up budgeting projects, among others.
“Clearly, there are several items in the DA budget that can be tapped by the ruling party for pork funds,” the lawmaker said.