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DPWH's PhP454.2B budget hurdles Senate plenary after seven-hour deliberation

MANILA — The Senate approved on Monday the proposed P454.2-billion for 2017 of the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) after a grueling seven-hour deliberation.
During the plenary debates, Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the undetailed P500 million and another P150 in lump sum funds lodged under the DPWH central office's budget.
Lacson said the P650 million is different from P5.9 billion budget for the "feasibility study" distributed in the DPWH regional offices.
Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee who sponsored the DPWH budget, explained that the P500 million is for "soil study" while the P150 million is for "feasibility study."
"Why there is a separate P650 million for soil and feasibility study when there is already P5.9 billion distributed to the regional offices?," Lacson asked.
Assisted by DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, Legarda assured that the P650 million will not be used for "political accommodation."
"This will be used as standby fund so that there will be source of money in case there will be shortage to augment future projects," Legarda explained.
She said the DPWH officials promised to put complete details on the P650 million budget.
Lacson also questioned the P216 million inserted by the congressmen in the DPWH budget for the school buildings "when there already P118 billion budget allotted by the Department of Education for school buildings to be implemented by DPWH."
Legarda, upon consultation with DPWH officials, agreed to Lacson's proposal to remove the P216 million from DPWH budget and include it to DepEd's budget for school buildings.
Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III expressed shock and outrage over reports that some district engineers and regional directors of the DPWH have allegedly started bidding out projects for 2017 when the General Appropriations Act (GAA) is still being deliberated in Congress.
Pimentel said it is both shameful and deplorable why certain DPWH district engineers and regional directors would already schedule the conduct of biddings for projects that are yet to be officially approved by Congress and signed by the President into law.
If there is no legal basis, Pimentel said the practice should be stopped immediately to prevent another possible source of corruption.
Legarda explained the practice is contained in the Government Procurement Policy Board (LPPB) circular issued in 2009 to all the department bureaus heads "to facilitate the implementation of the projects pending the approval of the GAA."
"This is not new. In fact, since the start of the Aquino administration, it was discussed every year," Legarda said.
"I have already anticipated that the answer is that this has been practiced before, but change has come. And if the legal basis is not solid, we better review the policy," Pimentel replied.
When asked if the projects will be deleted from the GAA, Legarda answered Pimentel: "Those qualifying for bid should know this a rule that it is not certain that it will be included in the GAA."
"That's the risk they have to take. On the other hand, they are trying to be pro-active," Legarda added.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon supported Legarda, saying the practice is to make sure that the proposed projects under the GAA will be implemented on time.
"The point is by summer, if you just follow strictly the schedule, you have not yet bidded out anything, then by the time the rainy season comes, the work cannot start. So I think that's the purpose: start the process but there is no award. If the project is deleted, then that's the lookout of the bidder," Drilon explained. (PNA)

Last Modified: 2021-Jul-22 18.49.54 UTC+0800