2016 budget includes allocation to pay for right-of-way in 13 road, expressway projects
Contrary to President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s claims that the government is not spending for public-private partnerships (PPPs) and that the private sector is even paying the government, billions of pesos are again allotted for selected PPP projects in the proposed 2016 national budget, an economic research group has revealed..
Like in the 2015 budget where funds were allotted to support big business profits, initial estimates made by IBON Foundation find that the 2016 National Expenditure Program (NEP) also has some P65.9 billion allotted for a handful of PPPs implemented by the country’s richest corporations.
This is an increase from the P52.7 billion PPP budget in 2015, the research group said in a statement posted on its website.
The proposed 2016 budget retains the P30 billion-risk management program, which is the financial and regulatory risk guarantee to protect private profits against, for instance, disallowed fare hikes.
Also maintained is the P1.6 billion fund for amortization and lease payments on school buildings constructed by Henry Sy’s Megawide Construction Corp. and its consortium partners.
Moreover, there is a large increase in PPP strategic support funds which go more than double to P24.8 billion. These cover expenses for right-of-way acquisition and displacement of informal settlers by at least 13 road and expressway projects of or eyed by the Ayala Corporation, San Miguel Corporation, Metro Pacific, Megawide, Aboitiz Equity, JG Summit and a few other big corporations.
The 2016 NEP also includes at least P9.5 billion for various Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) projects, both of which are privatized or in the middle of privatization.
Rail fares were already hiked substantially at the start of the year but additional LRT fare hikes are already being eyed by Metro Pacific and Ayala Corporation, the private sector winners of the LRT Line 1 expansion and operation project.
Prone to abuse
IBON Foundation also said the proposed 2016 national budget is vulnerable to abuse in the critical election year.
There are large lump-sum amounts including suspiciously for local governments, as well as an apparent attempt to give the administration greater flexibility to declare savings and transfer funds in the middle of the year.
The NEP has greatly increased the amount of special purpose funds (SPFs).
The SPFs are notorious for having large lump-sum amounts that do not undergo congressional or public scrutiny. SPFs increased by a substantial Php61.7 billion to reach Php430.4 billion in the proposed 2016 budget, IBON noted.
Among the SPF items is a conspicuous 69 percent increase (P23.1 billion) in the allocation to local government units (LGUs) to P56.5 billion.
The new SPF for LGUs includes an almost 500 per cent increase (P15.3 billion) in a so-called local government support fund to Php18.4 billion, from being just Php3.1 billion in 2015.
“It is widely accepted that LGUs, up to the barangay level, are the base in ensuring electoral victories for national candidates especially in presidential races,” IBON said.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in particular also has budget items which appear inconsistent with its mandate to promote peace and order, ensure public safety, and strengthen local government capability.
The proposed 2016 budget includes P8.3 billion for DILG housing, water and other community projects that are presumably the purview of other government agencies.
This includes P643 million for housing in the National Capital Region (NCR), P1.8 billion for water supply projects nationwide, P1.8 billion for community projects in armed conflict-affected areas, and P4.1 billion for bottom-up budgeting (BUB) projects for water supply and other projects.
Increased SPFs for LGUs and redundant DILG allocations disprove the administration’s claim that pork barrel items no longer exist in the national budget, IBON said.