What the 'pork barrel' is
"Pork barrel" refers to congressional allocations such as the PDAF, financial subsidies to local government units (FSLGU), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) lump sum allocations for infrastructure projects identified by Congress.
"Pork barrel" is the portion of the national budget that is widely left to the legislators’ discretion when it comes to how the funds are spent.
The term “pork barrel” refers to an ancient Western custom to preserve meat in actual wooden barrels for future consumption.
Connoting fat and grease and stored resources, the term has since seeped into ordinary conversations as a metaphor for political largesse.
Pork barrel funds account for a little over 1 percent of the national budget.
A congressman gets to allocate P70 million in pork barrel funds each year while a senator gets P200 million.
These “priority projects and programs” may be in the form of “hard” projects or infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, school buildings, and the like.
Pork barrel funds may also be allocated for “soft,” non-infrastructure projects that are more in the vein of financial assistance like scholarships and livelihood programs.
Legislators can pick from the following projects:
- Education – e.g. scholarships
- Health – e.g. financial assistance to indigent patients, purchase of medical equipment
- Livelihood/ social services
- Rural electrification
- Water supply – e.g. construction of water system, installation of pipes/pumps/tanks
- Financial assistance – for specific programs and projects of LGUs
- Public works – e.g. roads, bridges, flood control, school buildings, hospitals, health facilities,
- public markets, multi-purpose buildings and pavements
- Peace and order – purchase of firetrucks and firefighting equipment, patrol vehicles, prisoners’
- vans, multicabs, police patrol equipment, construction/repair of fire stations, police stations, jails
- Forest management
- Arts and culture
For congressmen, funds are split such that P30 million of each House member’s pork barrel are for “soft” programs and the remaining P40 million are for “hard” programs.
For senators, their pork barrel is evenly split – P100 million should be for “soft” projects, and P100 million for “hard” projects. - Agatha Guidaben/VVP/KG, GMA News