THE bicameral conference committee remained deadlocked after Senator Panfilo Lacson insisted that the House of Representatives return the P8.3 billion it took from the proposed budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The House wanted to give the money to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but Lacson maintained that this would violate Republic Act 9054 of the Organic Act for ARMM.
“What the lower house did is they cut P8.317 billion from the budget of ARMM intended for infrastructure and put it on the DPWH as additional budget to be used for ARMM,” he explained.
The senator said the ARMM has its own DPWH.
“I’m standing my ground. I have other issues [in the budget]this is the most contentious,” Lacson said in an interview.
He said the bicameral conference committee has two options — return the P8.3 billion to the ARMM budget or allow the realignment of the amount to the DPWH but the agency should not use the money to fund infrastructure projects in the autonomous region.
Asked why congressmen came up with the realignment, Lacson said the House contingent insisted that ARMM has issues on its absorptive capacity that is why a portion of its infrastructure budget was transferred to the DPWH.
But Lacson said the DPWH has P115 billion unused funds in 2015.
“So the reason that ARMM has weak absorptive capacity is not justified because DPWH also has the same situation,” the senator added.
Lacson noted that if he will allow the realignment, it would virtually provide the eight congressmen in ARMM more than P1 billion each for infrastructure projects in their respective districts.
The Senate agreed to reallocate the P8.317 billion to the budget of State Universities and Colleges (SUC) for the education of poor but deserving students. But this proposal will have to be approved by the House of Representatives.
Lacson also wants to remove P705 million from DPWH intended for school buildings because it will be redundant with the P118.7 billion required by the Department of Education (DepEd) for its school building program for next year.