By Mario Casayuran, September 4 2018; Manila Bulletin


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The proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019 (General Appropriations Act) still contains pork barrel projects for members of Congress.

This was the assertion of Sen.Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate public works and dangerous committee, saying that his lonely job of identifying the pork barrel items in the national budget every year continues with the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

‘’Talagang meron. Nakita na nga namin. May mga lump sum. Madali palatandaan diyan pag ni-lump sum madali naman hanapin yan kasi di mo makita ang items. Bakit mo popondohan?’’ he asked. (There are pork barrel projects. We have seen them. There are lump sum appropriations (that contain pork barrel projects). The signs are the lump sums. Why fund them?)

Lacson has yet to give a definite figure on how much the pork barrel projects cost.

The Senate has yet to receive from the House of Representatives its approved version of the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion General Appropriations Act.

What the Senate is relying on in the conduct of public hearings on the budget is the Duterte administration’s National Expenditure Program (MEP) which is the draft of the GAA.

Most of the pork barrel projects are usually embedded in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

But DPWH Secretary Mark Villar denied that there are pork barrel projects for legislators in the proposed 2019 national budget.

‘’These are all budgeted, all going through the processes. When you say pork barrel, it means no discretionary funds . There are no discretionary funds. These are all line items,’’ he said.

Villar also said his department would be guided by a cash budgeting scheme of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) where all projects have to be finished and paid for in one fiscal year.

Asked whether there would be extension in the cash budgeting scheme from three to six months, Villar said the Senate finance committee is discussing this issue.

Earlier, the House of Representatives leadership met with DBM officials and changed its rigid ‘’obligatIon’’ budgeting position to cash budgeting but payments to projects should be extended from three to six months.

Thus, the challenge now to the DPWH is that its planning of projects should be precise so that these are completed in one year, Villar pointed out.