Assistant Majority Floor Leader Aurelio Gonzales (3rd District, Pampanga) on Monday moved to suspend the plenary deliberation on the DPWH proposed budget as there are other issues the agency needs to clarify in the course of the floor deliberation.
“Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend consideration on the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways. I so move, Mr. Speaker,” said Gonzales.
The DPWH proposed budget is 37.5 percent higher than its allocation this year, which reflects the government’s massive infrastructure buildup plan.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared that infrastructure will be one of the main drivers of the country's development over the next few years.
During the initial plenary interpellation, Rep. Anthony Bravo (Party-list, COOP NATCCO) noted that the 2016 unused appropriations of the DPWH amounted to P 144 billion while the continuing appropriations for 2017 is only P105 billion.
“What happened to the rest of the amount because it was not continued in the succeeding year (2017) and there’s a huge difference of more than P39 billion?” Bravo asked.
House committee on appropriations chairman Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City), sponsor of the DPWH budget, said the unused appropriations in 2016 was P7.4 billion and its breakdown represents savings from completed projects.
“Ito po yung natural savings na nakukuha ng departamento dahil po yung indicated amount pag nag-open bidding po yan, syempre pag lowest bid tayo, obviously meron po tayong natural savings doon. Lahat po ng savings sa lahat ng mga proyekto pinag-ipon-ipon po natin. Yung savings po natin from completed projects noong 2016 ay umabot sa halagang P7.4 billion,” said Nograles.
He said the DPWH has a variance from on-going projects amounting to P7.6 billion. The balance from all regional offices, district engineering offices and central office has reached P24 billion. The total amount is about P39 billion which makes up for the difference of the P144 billion unused appropriations and the P105 billion continuing appropriations, he said.
Bravo also asked the DPWH to clarify the huge unreleased appropriations of P136 billion and the two percent utilization rate of the central office.
Nograles said the DPWH has already reported that the two percent utilization rate is not the latest figure. In fact, he said a lot of the funds have already been downloaded to projects.
“Rest assured that is no longer two percent. It’s even much, much higher than the amount of utilization rate. If that number seems to be alarming as far as the central office is concerned, the DPWH is clarifying that as of August 31, 2017 this has been already corrected,” said Nograles.
Aware of the lifespan of the budget of 2017, Bravo asked if the funds will be reverted to the national treasury if the DPWH will not utilize the funds.
Nograles said the DPWH has until December 31 to obligate the funds. But if they are not able to obligate, the funds will be reverted to the national treasury, he said.
“Right now, the DPWH is committed to speed up their obligation rate. They have a lot of catching-up to do and have undertaken a lot of actions to speed-up their obligation rate. So, let us give them the chance. We have oversight functions (which we can exercise) to hold them accountable and to regularly check how fast they are obligating the funds that are lodged in the central office," said Nograles.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte) asked how much is the total amount allocated to flood control projects for the year 2018 and the process of the DPWH in identifying flood control programs.
Nograles said that technical studies and master plans are being conducted and even identified in the regional development council. He said the DPWH also has a department order on the process of identification of flood control programs.
Dimaporo asked for the breakdown of allocation for the flood control projects for the regions in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, specifically in Mindanao to be submitted to the committee secretariat and copy furnished his office.