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Bloated anti-flood budget

The rainy/typhoon season and floods visit us annually during the second half of the year.

It is unimaginable, unthinkable for the first to happen without the second promptly following suit.

Sad to admit, but flooding is the evil twin of the wet season in the country.

But does it have to be?

Is there no relief from this seasonal watery flogging that causes not only inconvenience and health hazards but also economic losses in terms of foregone livelihood for entrepreneurs and income for salaried workers and employees?

And so we join the outrage of a feisty lady lawmaker in questioning the multi-billion peso allocation for ood control projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways, which she noted was even bigger than the budget proposed for the Department of Health now at the forefront of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DPWH is headed by Sec. Mark Villar, son of Sen. Cynthia Villar.

“Since Covid-19 is still present, one would assume that including our health facilities would be the priority,” Se. Grace Poe said at the continuation of the briefing with economic managers on the proposed 2021 budget.

“Bakit malaki ang funding ng flood control projects ng DPWH sa buong budget ng DoH? I just want to clarify kasi ang pondo ng DoH ay P131.22 billion, pero ang pondo ng DPWH for flood control projects ay at least P150 billion,” Poe said.

She vowed to scrutinize the details of the proposed appropriations for the DPWH during deliberations with the agency.

“Environmental factors should not be neglected and there are really some legitimate flood control projects. But there are a few flood control projects that are questionable because it’s hard to keep track of them if they were really done,” she said.

“We will look at this in depth when we have the individual hearings with the department and ask the DPWH to clarify,” the lady lawmaker added.

She pointed out the country is in the midst of a pandemic that requires enormous resources to adequately respond to public health needs.

Ensuring that the country is winning the battle against Covid-19 would also lead to economic recovery, the senator said.

Budget znd Management Sec. Wendel Avisado said the agency would work with Congress in coming up with a budget that strikes a balance between health and the economy.

Poe said she would also look into the reduced budget for the Department of Education’s basic education continuity program, which was given only P16 billion from its original request of P60 billion.

She also raised the issue of technical smuggling at the Bureau of Customs and asked about the measures the agency is taking to curb the illegal activities that deprive government of much-needed revenues.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee, composed of government economic managers, presented before the Senate finance committee the proposed P4.506 trillion spending program for 2021 detailing a comprehensive plan on how to meet the challenges of economic recovery and social service as the country continues to battle Covid-19.

The latest National Expenditure Program is 9.9 percent higher than the 2020 budget, and 21.8 percent of the country’s Philippine gross domestic product.

Tax and revenue collections would finance next year’s budget, which would also be boosted by domestic and international loans.

Poe inquired about the current level of debt as a percentage of the GDP, stressing that it should be kept at a level that would not imperil the country’s credit standing and ravage the budget which should be spent instead to help Filipino families tide over the current economic challenges.