Sen. Santiago asks DBM to recommend presidential veto on Cagayan Freeport budget

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THE P800 million budget for the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) in the 2014 national budget is illegal and immoral and that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should recommend a presidential veto on the said item, Senator Miriam Santiago said Wednesday.

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In a letter addressed to Sec. Florencio Abad of the DBM, Santiago insisted that the P890.8 million budget for CEZA is extravagant considering that other existing economic zones in the country receives mush less.

She also sees the CEZA budget as unjustifiable because according to Santiago of the P5.1 billion total appropriations got by CEZA from 2008 to 2013, the economic zone has not brought significant contribution to the economy and the national treasury.

The feisty senator has expressed concern that  even with a Special Provision in the budget, the CEZA fund will become a lump sum, subject to the discretion of the Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who authored the law that created the economic zone.

“This outcome would violate the landmark Supreme Court ruling that all kinds of pork barrel are unconstitutional,” she said in her statement.

Santiago also sees not point for the government to spent millions for the construction of a “deeper navigation channel” in Port Irene, when the government is cash-strapped, and when the budget describes the mandate as: “to develop CEZA into a self-sustaining area.”

“I humbly but strongly recommend that it would be appropriate for DBM to recommend that President Aquino should veto this anomalous item in the 2014 budget,” Santiago said in her letter.

The bicameral conference committee also ready proposed the P2.2 trillion 2014 national budget Tuesday and is set for ratification by both chambers of congress before it is submitted to the president for his signature.

Some observers said that Santiago should have raised her objection during the budget deliberation instead of coming raising the issue now when the both houses of congress already passed the budget measure.

Others on the other hand believe that Santiago’s letter to DBM is part of her retaliation against the former Senate president who accused her of having a deranged mind.

Santiago earlier asked the Justice Department to look into the alleged crimes of Enrile which she mentioned on her recent speech.

She also filed a complaint against Enrile for disorderly behavior before the senate committee on rules.

Senate majority leader Alan peter Cayetano however admitted that the chamber cannot act on the Santiago’s compliant immediately since there are more important matters the senate need to attend to.Jefferson Antiporda

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