Pimentel urges DPWH to explain ₱544B lump sum in proposed budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 2) — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III wants the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to explain its ₱544-billion lump-sum appropriation in its proposed budget for 2023.

According to Pimentel, the lump sum is equivalent to 75 percent of the DPWH’s ₱718.4-billion allocation under the proposed ₱5.268-trillion National Expenditures Program.

“In the spirit of transparency, I call on the DPWH to provide the details of this huge allocation, down to the last centavo, so the Senate and the public will be able to scrutinize it,” he said.

“Every peso in the budget should be disaggregated,” he added. “Lumang tugtugin na ang pagtatago ng bilyun-bilyong lump sum (Hiding billions in lump sum is an old tune). Let’s shun this practice.”

Pimentel also said lump-sum appropriations are “prone to abuse and discretion” as these are mostly lodged under an agency’s central office.

“For Congress to allow lump-sum appropriation in the budget is tantamount to giving the executive a blanket authority to spend—in the case of DPWH, ₱544 billion—at its own discretion,” he added.

DPWH allotted ₱213.95 billion for convergence and special support programs, which includes ₱104.82 billion for Sustainable Infrastructure Projects Alleviating Gap (SIPAG) and ₱52.45 billion for Basic Infrastructure Program (BIP).

Pimentel said SIPAG and BIP seem to serve “duplicative” functions and have purposes “beyond the implementation of a national infrastructure program.”

He also flagged the following appropriations:

- ₱10.89 billion for widening of primary roads

- ₱11.46 billion for secondary roads

- ₱6.52 billion for tertiary roads

- ₱113.09 billion for network development program

- ₱21.09 billion for bridge program

- ₱109 billion for flood management program

- ₱86.18 billion for asset preservation program or road rehabilitation, reconstruction, and upgrading

The ₱86.18 billion for asset preservation program includes ₱9.19 billion for preventive maintenance of primary roads, ₱12.44 billion for secondary roads, and ₱9.51 billion for maintenance of tertiary roads.

Saang distrito at barangay mapupunta itong bilyun-bilyong alokasyon?” Pimentel asked.

[Translation: What districts and barangays will benefit from these multi-billion-peso allocations?]

He also warned that lump-sum funds could be a “rich” source of pork barrel funds, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional in 2014.

“What I fear the most is it could be a rich source of pork barrel funds. That is why DPWH should disaggregate them and publicize the details immediately,” Pimentel said.