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Andaya claims 2019 budget must be re-examined

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. on Monday claimed there is a need to re-examine the 2019 national budget, saying the fiscal deficit does “not look so good.”

In an emailed statement, Andaya said the government is likely to miss its P523.7-billion fiscal deficit target, equivalent to 3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Government disbursements continue to outpace the increase in revenues. Both government spending and revenues are growing beyond their respective targets. As a result, government may fail to meet its deficit ceiling for the year,” said Andaya.

Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) data showed the budget deficit reached P477.2 billion in January to November, from P243.5 billion in the same period last year.

“Given this development, it is time we realize that the proposed 2019 national budget prepared by DBM is out of touch with reality. We may have to re-examine the 2019 budget closely during the conference committee with the Senate,” he said.

“We are walking on a tightrope and we need a really good balancing act. The Development Budget Coordination Committee insists on a smaller contractionary spending program, yet the government needs to spend more just to catch up with inflation,” the lawmaker said.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was earlier grilled by the House of Representatitves, mainly by Andaya, over supposed anomalies in the proposed 2019 budget.

Diokno dismissed Andaya’s claims, saying government spending is on track.

“By comparison, infrastructure outlays as percentage of GDP under the Duterte administration was 6.3 percent (2017-2018) compared to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 1.6 percent (2001-2010). No contest!” Diokono told GMA News Online.

Andaya served as Budget secretary during the administration of former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“On the contrary, we have adopted an expansionary fiscal policy and with tax reform and moderate deficit to GDP ratio of around 3.0 percent,” said Diokno.

“Thanks for the advice, but Duterte’s economic team is doing fine!” he added.

Andaya also claimed last week that Diokno’s supposed relatives received millions of pesos of anomalous government contracts.

In an earlier hearing, he presented an P11-million deposit slip that he claimed proved a payout made by the government in favor of Aremar Construction Corp. He also claimed that Aremar's joint venture partner CT Leoncio Construction was simply a front receiving commission fees for government projects.

Aremar Construction is owned by Maria Minez Hamor, daughter of Edwin and Ester Hamor, according to Andaya, saying that Edwin is running for reelection as mayor of Casiguran in Sorsogon. Edwin’s son Jojo Sicat, is married to Diokno’s daughter Charlotte.

Diokno has clarified that the DBM is not involved in selecting contractors for government projects.

Diokno alleged that he was being singled out by the House, particularly Andaya, because of moves to abolish the Road Board.

“I think puno't dulo nito ‘yung tinatawag na Road Users Tax. Makikita naman ninyo sa pagtatanong nila nung Question Hour,” Diokno said in an interview on GMA News’ “News to Go.”

As Budget secretary, Diokno is a member of the Road Board together with heads of the Departments of Finance, Transportation, and Public Works and Highways.

The Road Board is tasked by law to identify and propose allocations for road projects to be funded by proceeds from the Motor Vehicle Users’ Charge—the tax paid whenever their cars are registered with the Land Transportation Office.

Citing findings from the Commission on Audit (COA), Diokno said that there may have been P90.7 billion of misappropriated funds due to corruption related to the Road Board. —Jon Viktor Cabuenas/VDS, GMA News