MANILA, Philippines — Senator Grace Poe on Thursday quizzed budget officials on why flood control projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) got a bigger allocation than the Department of Health (DOH).
Flood control projects of the DPWH got a P150 billion allocation under the executive department’s proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 while the DOH only got a total allocation of P131.22 billion, Poe pointed out during the second day of budget deliberations in the Senate.
“Since COVID-19 is still present one would assume that improving our health facilities would be the priority,” she said.
“Bakit mas malaki ang funding ng flood control projects ng DPWH sa buong budget ng DOH? I just want to clarify,” Poe added.
In response, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado explained to senators that they tried to strike a balance between the priorities of the government in terms of budget allocations.
“We are guided by the priorities of the government and for sure even as we go through the process of really allocating all of these funds, we did our best but even so we will always fall short because of the ambivalence of the environment,” he said.
“But certainly our desire is really to strike a balance in health and economy,” he added.
Further, Avisado said the executive department is looking to work together with Congress to iron out the country’s spending plan for next year.
“We’re looking at precisely partnering with Congress and looking into this. We’re not saying that we’re absolute in our calculations of what should really go to each of these departments but certainly the task is daunting,” he said.
“That’s why this will go through the process and we would like to work with you on this and if you think that there’s much more to be done, we would work this out together,” the budget secretary added.
But Poe pointed out that while there are “legitimate” flood control projects, some of them are “questionable.”
“I understand your predicament, but of course, well of course environmental factors should not be neglected and there are really some legitimate flood control projects. But as you know, there are a few flood control projects also that are questionable because it’s very hard to keep track if they were actually really done,” the senator said.
“Yes, you’re right,” she added, referring to Avisado. “I think we can look at this in depth when we have our individual hearings for the departments and ask the DPWH to clarify.”
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