The year is drawing to a close, but Malacañang wants Congress to approve a P23-billion supplemental budget for 2014 that it said will be used for programs that were supposed to be funded by under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Palace, determined to secure the additional budget, justified the proposal as being in accordance with the Supreme Court decision on DAP.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the High Court outlawed DAP principally because the Executive must seek congressional approval before spending untapped funds.
DAP is a spending program implemented in 2012 to accelerate government spending and stir economic growth by realigning the unused appropriations of agencies to the priority projects of the administration, including those proposed by the lawmakers.
“DAP critics have been saying that we should have not implemented DAP and instead asked Congress if we want something funded. Now, they are again questioning our move to ask Congress for funding. We have to remember that not all the projects under the DAP were implemented or finished. So by force of circumstances, we need to look for other projects and funding. And the way to do that, as the last means, is to go back to Congress and ask for supplemental budget,” Valte said in a radio interview.
The P23 billion is broken down to P5.08 billion for the stalled projects funded by DAP, P16.4 billion for new priority initiatives including reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Yolanda-hit areas and Manila’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) next year and P1.85 billion for projects previously funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd of Mandaluyong City said the House of Representatives wants the P23 billion trimmed, noting that a supplemental budget should fill in a deficiency, not appropriate new allocation.
Opposition lawmakers have also warned that the supplemental budget would likely end up as a discretionary fund or pork barrel, thus vulnerable to abuse.
But Valte said the supplemental allocation will be judiciously spent even if the entire budget will not be used within the year.
“The spending will depend on the project itself. There can be multi-year projects funded by DAP,” she said.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero earlier questioned Malacañang’s request for a supplemental budget, saying P137 billion was allocated for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Yolanda.
“Why didn’t they just include it in the 2015 budget? Why resort to a supplemental budget?” Escudero, the chairperson of the Senate finance committee, said.
Valte clarified that the Palace it is not blaming the Supreme Court for the slowdown in the country’s economic growth which was attributed to reduced government spending.
“The administration is not blaming anybody here. We just said that the Supreme Court decision had an effect, but it doesn’t mean that blame is being apportioned. The ruling was something we had to contend with. We had to make sure that we were not in violation of any of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court,” Valte said.
“Despite the slower than expected growth, we feel that the economy will continue to grow. We have set targets for ourselves. We don’t see any sign really of the slowdown,. It’s just the number that was less than expected, but it’s also not bad. We will continue to push the drivers that can make this happen. We will continue to put money in the correct place,” she added.