The budget briefing of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had to be suspended Thursday (September 17) after a lawmaker questioned the supposed hefty allocations for areas associated with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte.
Negros Oriental 3rd district Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. confronted DPWH Secretary Mark Villar over the distribution of the agency’s proposed 2021 budget to congressional districts and told the latter to explain how the funds were allocated.
Teves mentioned as “hearsay” that Taguig City would be getting P8 billion while Camarines Sur, whose 2nd district is represented by Villafuerte, would be getting P11.8 billion.
Villar responded by saying that DPWH will submit details of the allocations to be given to various districts. He, however, noted that the House appropriations committee already has a list of allotments per district.
“That is immediately available. There’s no… wala namang itinatago,” Villar said.
Teves then said his district should be given a budget higher than the P2 billion it would be getting next year as it supposedly ranks eighth among congressional districts nationwide in terms of absorptive capacity or utilization of funds.
He then pressed Villar to confirm whether Taguig City and Camarines Sur would have hefty budgets for infrastructure projects for 2021.
“There were two places I mentioned. I want a confirmation kung totoo ba ‘yun na ganoon kalaki ang natatanggap nila and I would like to ask why, why the disparity?” Teves said.
Villar said he could give Teves the amounts allotted to congressional districts, but added that it wasn’t his place “to give an opinion on the budget.”
Teves said he had to speak up on the supposed disparities in the allocations for congressional districts.
“I-zero man ‘yung budget ko, bahala na. Pero hindi na pwedeng mananahimik lang ako parati na ‘yung iba dito, ang lalaki ng budget, yung iba hindi,” he said.
Teves said his questions were nothing personal as Cayetano, whose family rules Taguig, was his school mate while Villafuerte was also a buddy.
“I just want to know because I’m really fed up already on why we’re getting these measly amounts and the others are getting so high,” he said.
Villar said the districts’ absorptive capacity isn’t always the basis for the fund allocation, since DPWH also has to consider the “pipeline” of approved projects.
“It’s not a question of per district. It’s just really that there are some districts where there is a presence of flagship projects there and priority projects of the administration,” he said.
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. Moved for the suspension of DPWH’s budget briefing after the exchange between Teves and Villar due to the physical absence of several DPWH officials at the plenary hall.