Flood control budget in hot water: Bigger than agriculture, defense, DSWD

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — Senators on Wednesday flagged the large amount of funding proposed for flood control projects next year, pointing out that it is even bigger than the allocation for priority sectors such as agriculture, defense, and social welfare.

On Day 2 of economic managers' briefing in the Senate on the proposed ₱5.768 trillion national spending plan for 2024, Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero questioned why only ₱181 billion was earmarked for the entire agriculture sector while the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) sought ₱215 billion for flood control projects.

"If agriculture is important, may I ask why is it that the budget for flood control is bigger than the Department of Agriculture or the agriculture sector as a whole?" Escudero asked. "It's bigger than the budget of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), it's bigger than the budget of the DND (Department of National Defense)."

Senator Grace Poe also pointed out that this is "six times larger than entire outlays for school buildings, 16 times larger than outlay for hospitals, and eight times larger than the calamity funds." She demanded details of the projects in the pipeline.

No DPWH representative was present during the hearing, since it is not part of the Development Budget Coordination Committee. However, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman explained that the DPWH considers flood control a major program. She said the agency has an "internal formula" in determining the amount needed for each item.

"All of the projects of the NG (national government) are equally important, it's just that we have limited fiscal space. On flood control, I guess it's timely to have that big amount of budget now with what's happening,” she added.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, expressed his frustration over the absence of the Central Luzon Floodway Project in the 2024 budget.

The senator from Bulacan recalled that DPWH Secretary Manny Bonoan had touted the project as the solution to the flooding in his province and other areas.

In response, Pangandaman said the project still has to undergo a feasibility study. She said it's part of the ₱115 million allocation for various feasibility studies under the proposed DPWH budget.