Congress to reallocate intel, confidential funds to security agencies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) — Both chambers of Congress have decided to realign confidential and intelligence funds to agencies tasked to ensure national security, days after China illegally put up a floating barrier in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the lawmakers said they view China's latest action in the disputed waters "with serious concern."

They said not only did the floating barrier — which has since been removed by the Philippine Coast Guard — endanger Filipino fishermen and halt their livelihood, but it also triggered more conflict.

"We extend our collective support to the Philippine Coast Guard's (PCG) swift and diplomatic actions in removing the barriers at Scarborough Shoal. We commend their dedication to safeguarding our nation's interests and standing up for the rights of our Filipino fishermen," the joint statement read.

"Given recent provocative incidents in the contested areas, we have decided to reallocate–as part of the budget process–confidential and intelligence funds to other agencies chiefly responsible for intelligence and surveillance…" it added.

The agencies that may receive additional funding boost include the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the National Security Council, the PCG, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The ranking members of the House said this was necessary amid "rising security threats" in the WPS.

"These agencies are better positioned to counteract security threats, protect our territorial waters, and secure the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to traditional fishing grounds," they stressed.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source, House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin said the lower chamber did the right move, noting that there are safety measures on the use of such funds.

However, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said the funds to be transferred should just be allocated for food security and basic social services which should be the focus of the government.

The Makabayan bloc also said in a statement that it wants confidential funds abolished and to reduce intelligence funds.

“This is to address the gross and unconscionable inflation of CIF over the years, particularly since the time of the Duterte administration. This has left billions of pesos in taxpayers' money vulnerable to misuse and outright corruption,” it said.

While it recognized that funding is necessary to address external threats, like China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea, “not all these funds need to be confidential in nature.” Aside from social services, the Makabayan bloc also noted that urgent additional funding is needed for support for farmers and fisherfolk.

Meanwhile, senators have agreed to follow suit, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

"We also will [be] reallocating funds that we feel are not necessary for the use of certain agencies and allocate them to our Intelligence Community as well as our Coast Guard and AFP," he said Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel also said that "the idea is worth pursuing."

Asked if the reallocation would include the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, Zubiri said they "shall review all agencies."