The P15.46-billion budget for hosting the Association of Southeast Asian meetings this year may not be enough, primarily because of the security aspect of the events and the heads of states.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told GMA News Online the existing budget may need to be augmented to strengthen security efforts for the heads of state and their respective delegations, particularly during the last leg of the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings this month.
On Friday, the heads of state will start arriving at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga before they are transported to Manila.
“Meron siyang P15-billion allocation. Palagay ko mauubos ‘yan and baka may additional pa kasi napaka-expensive ng security natin, biruin mo 21 heads of state and kailangan i-secure,” Diokno said.
He said the organizers may have “underestimated” the cost of security.
21 heads of state
Twenty-one heads of state, including United States President Donald Trump, China Premier Li Keqiang and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, are expected to attend the series of high-profile meetings next week.
By the end of 2017, the country will have hosted more than a hundred meetings, including two major summits, of the ASEAN member-states and their dialogue partners.
The government has allotted P15,459,698,000 of taxpayers' money for its hosting chores during the golden anniversary of the regional bloc, an amount larger than the nearly P10-billion budget for the hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in 2015.
The DBM has not yet made an estimate of the possible additional costs, but Diokno said the budget of the military may be tapped for the purpose.
More than a third—P11,074,760,000—of the total appropriations for hosting the ASEAN meetings went to the Office of the President (OP), increasing the OP budget by 600 percent to P20.17 billion this year, from P2.86 billion in 2016.
The next biggest share—P2 billion—went to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which handles the operations of the Philippine National Police, part of the 60,000-strong contingent that will ensure the safety of the world leaders who will converge in Manila starting this week.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office has received P1,457,697,000, which is nearly P135 million more than its total operating budget of P1,322,735,000 for the whole of 2017.
The Department of Tourism received P749,563,000, while the Department of Trade and Industry received the smallest share of P177,678,000.
The management of ASEAN-related events, which has an allocation of P2.9 billion, was outsourced to the lone bidder, StageCraft International, for just about half of the budget, said Diokno in January.
A complaint by an “excluded” bidder—Events Organizing Network Incorporated (EON)—claimed that government officials violated procurement laws when they awarded the contract to StageCraft after allegedly “tailor-making” the requirements to suit the firm.
The budget secretary, who supposedly criticized the smaller budget for the APEC meetings in 2015, said the bulk of the ASEAN hosting budget this year will be used for accommodation and logistics requirements of the heads of state and their entourage.
Marciano Paynor, Jr., director general for Operations of the ASEAN National Organizing Council told reporters in late October that all the money the government is spending for the ASEAN meetings is an “investment.”
“If you do not invest, the economy will not grow. This is a way of pushing the economy. But what are savings for if the economy does not grow? There’s no movement,” he said.
He did not specify how exactly the multibillion-peso budget is being used, nor how much of it has already been spent. — With a report from Ted Cordero/VDS/LA/GMA News