House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco removed at least P386 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) 2021 budget for key infrastructure projects in Camarines Sur even if they had been approved by a panel led by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte urged senators to check the cuts made by the Velasco-led House to the general appropriations bill (GAB), which he claimed had been made on the sly.
“If the current House leadership claims to be fully supportive of the Duterte administration, why has it slashed on the sly the DPWH outlays in the House-endorsed General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for three of the flagship projects in Bicol that were approved by the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) Board chaired by the President himself?” he asked.
Villafuerte said P182 million was cut from the budget of the CamSur Expressway, which is a 15-kilometer (km), four-lane road with waterways, bike lanes and sidewalks that will serve as an alternate route for motorists going to the eastern and southern municipalities and of those going to Sorsogon and Albay.
Another P124 million was removed from the budget of the CamSur-Albay Diversion Road, which is a 61.90-km road project that will decongest the main road from the province to Albay, he said, and P80 million more was sliced off the budget for the Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Highway, which is a 40.69-km, four-lane coastal road along the province’s west coast that will provide access to assorted tourism sites.
The CamSur Expressway and Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Highway are on the list of projects under President Duterte’s signature program “Build, Build, Build,” according to the NEDA website.
Villafuerte welcomed Senator Panfilo Lacson’s statement that the district allocations will be reviewed when the bicameral conference committee meets to thresh out conflicting provisions of GAB. The Senate passed the budget bill on third and final reading this week.
“Such a review would expose the House-initiated unwarranted reallocation of funds in certain congressional districts such as those in CamSur as well as additional fund redistribution, if any, that the current House leadership might push during the bicam talks for the benefit of districts of lawmakers close to Speaker Velasco,” he said.
Lacson earlier said there were “noticeable” increases in the allocations of districts represented by Velasco’s allies, while the budget of lawmakers allied with former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, like Villafuerte, were slashed.