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Nagbago daw: Duterte’s ‘build, build, build’ is slow, slow, slow – Recto

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Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto is worried that despite the rhetoric of change, the Duterte administration’s much ballyhooed “build, build, build” infrastructure is suffering the same fate of its predecessor.

“Is underspending a thing of the past? Or is it a continuing concern? Now that the shoe is on the other foot, have you solved the problem you have accused your predecessors of doing?” asked Recto in a statement.

He said some officials of the Duterte administration have been quoted as saying that the Aquino administration had failed to spend or delayed the spending of an estimated P1 trillion in appropriations.

But a preliminary estimate circulated among senators, the Duterte administration had piled up P185.8 billionin unreleased appropriations in 2016, on top of unobligated allotments of P410.8 billion.

These “agencies of interest” include the Education, Health, Transportation, Agriculture, and Public Works and Highways departments, said Recto.

He said the Department of Transportation should declare if it had been able to wipe out the logjam of projects left by the previous administration.

“Yung procurement hurdles ba, naayos na? Or is it still a slow train to procurement?” he said.

He noted that the rail sector would get P22.1 billion this year and P25.99 billion in 2018.

“In the case of DepED, how many of the new classrooms funded in last year’s budget have been completed?” Recto said.

For 2017, DepED was given P109.3 billion to build 47,492 new classrooms and P2.47 billion to buy 66,492 school desks, furniture and fixtures. Next year, the DepEC had been earmarked P106.1 billion for 47,000 new classrooms and P3.47 billion for 84,781 school desks, furniture and fixtures.

“Sa teachers, we have created 53,831 positions this year. Ilan ba sa kanila ang nag-log-in when classes opened in June? Sa pulis, 10,000 ang target i-hire, how many of them are now pounding their beats?” Recto said.

Another agency plagued with slow-moving projects is the Department of Health, Recto said.

For this year, the DOH’S Health Facilities Enhancement Program was given P24.19 billion. In its 2018 budget, there is a provision of P29.03 billion for the same program.

“In both DOH and DepED, they still have inherited backlog of deliverables from 2016,” Recto said.

Recto said the fund absorptive capacity of the National Irrigation Administration, an office under the Cabinet Secretary, would also be scrutinized.

“This year may budget ito na P38.4 billion. Next year, may request for P41.9 billion. Ang tanong: Ilan na ang natapos nila? O nasimulan man lang,” Recto said.

Recto said the Senate review of the Duterte administration’s proposed 2018 national budget for 2018 of P3.7 trillion will “center on its ability to utilize the appropriations for public works. “

“What projects have been delivered? What are delayed or derailed? ‘Yan yung mga tanong na dapat sagutin ng mga ahensya,” Recto said.

Recto said government agencies must prove that it was indeed using the money more efficiently and effectively than the previous administration.

“We will be examining both ledgers. Income and spending. Bakit ka hihingi ng ganito kalaking bagong revenues kung hindi mo naman nagagasta?” Recto said.

Recto said knowing “spending humps” would explain why programs were “slow-moving” programs.

“It will serve a dual purpose. First, identify the fat which can be re-channeled to good programs like free public college,” Recto said.

“Second, we can cut overhead and frivolous expenses, so we can in turn reduce the number of new taxes the government is asking Congress to impose,” he added.

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