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Solon questions infra allocations for Taguig, CamSur in proposed 2021 DPWH budget

A lawmaker on Thursday questioned the supposedly massive allocation for infrastructure projects in some legislative districts, particularly in Taguig City and Camarines Sur, under the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

During the House panel deliberations on the DPWH's budget for next year, Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. asked the department to show the list of five congressional districts with the highest and lowest infrastructure allocation.

He also requested the department to explain the basis for allocating these amounts to the legislative districts.

At the same time, Teves also asked the DPWH to confirm rumors that Taguig City is receiving more than P8 billion in infrastructure allocation for next year, while Camarines Sur is getting P11.8 billion.

He did not specify, however, which district in these two areas he was referring to.

"I'd just like a confirmation because wala naman akong kumpletong datos at sinabihan yung staff ko kahapon na yung datos daw ay confidential. I don't think any of the public documents are confidential," he added.

Teves pointed out that his district ranks eighth nationwide in the districts with the highest absorptive capacity, but it is only getting less than P2 billion in infrastructure allocation under the DPWH's budget for next year.

"Dapat yun ang binibigyan ng malaking budget dahil ibig sabihin nun nagagamit namin ang pondo namin," he said.

In response, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the list of the districts with the highest and lowest infrastructure allocation is already with the House Committee on Appropriations.

He also explained that the allocation of the budget for infrastructure projects is not solely based on absorptive capacity.

"It includes also the pipeline of projects. There are certain foreign-funded projects that are present in a district so it might seem that there is a larger budget," Villar said.

"Certain areas have flagship projects that are vetted by the NEDA that show a higher level of economic return and those are prioritized by this administration. It's not a question of per district, it just really that there are some districts where there is a presence of flagship projects there and priority projects of the administration," he added.

But Villar's failure to confirm the infrastructure allocation for Taguig City and Camarines Sur irked Teves.

"I'm not satisfied with the answer, I'm very sorry Mr. Secretary. There were two places I mentioned, I want a confirmation kung totoo ba yun na ganun kalaki ang natatanggap nila and I would like to ask why, why the disparity?" Teves said.

"Wala sanang problema kung non-performing yung distrito e. Hindi ko talaga maintindihan at gusto kong maintindihan ko, ng constituents ko, at ng buong bayan. At sana dumating sa tenga ng ating Presidente na may malaking disparity dito," he added.

Teves said he could not just sit idly by while other legislative districts were getting bigger allocations for infrastructure projects.

"Kaya ako naglakas ng loob na magsalita ngayon. I-zero man yung budget ko, bahala na," he added.

"Para sa akin lang, not for parochial concerns, I should be getting the eighth highest budget of the country when it comes to projects because I am the eighth in absorptive capacity meaning nagagamit ko yung pera na pinapadala sa akin," he added.

Teves added that his concern was not a personal one, saying that he is friends with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who represents Taguig-Pateros, and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, representing the second district of Camarines Sur.

"This is nothing personal. I just want to know because I'm really fed up already on why we're getting these measly amounts and the others are getting so high," he added.

Villar, however, maintained that he did not have the immediate breakdown of the infrastructure allocation per legislative district with him at that time.

"We can submit it and everyone is more than welcome to scrutinize per legislative district," he added.

Following Teves' interpellation, House Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. moved to defer the budget briefing of the DPWH.

The DPWH was proposing a P667.3-billion budget for next year. — BM, GMA News