Solons agree to reallocate confi, intel funds amid security threats in WPS

By GMA Integrated News

Heads of various political parties in the House of Representatives have agreed to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to agencies in charge of intelligence and surveillance activities amid the recent events in the West Philippine Sea.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the lawmakers said beneficiaries of this reallocation include the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

"Recognizing the rising security threats in the West Philippine Sea and the need to secure top officials, 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," the lawmakers said. 

They said the decision to reallocate the CIF "underscores the need to ensure that resource allocation aligns with national priorities and the urgent needs of the citizenry..."

Among those who signed the joint statement were Representatives Michael John Duavit (1st District, Rizal), Johnny Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), Eleandro Mendoza (Romblon), Jose Aquino (1st District, Agusan del Norte), Angelica Co (BHW party-list) and LRay Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur).

Senate follows suit

At the Senate, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said they also intend to reallocate unnecessary funds in certain agencies to the intelligence agencies, the PCG, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"We have agreed in the Senate to do the same. 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," Zubiri said in a Viber message to reporters on Wednesday.

Asked if the confidential funds lodged under the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) will be included, Zubiri said, “We shall review all agencies.”

Total confidential and intelligence funds proposed for 2024 total P10.142 billion, according to documents from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). It is higher by P120 million than the P10.02 billion set aside for the CIF in 2023.

The past National Expenditure Program (NEP) defines intelligence funds as those “related to intelligence information gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel and intelligence practitioners” having direct impact to national security.

Meanwhile, confidential funds are those “related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.”


Floating barrier

According to the House lawmakers who signed the joint statement, they view China's recent installation of floating barrier in Bajo de Masinloc "with serious concern" as it "not only impedes the rights and livelihoods of our Filipino fishermen but also disrupts the prevailing atmosphere of regional peace and collaboration."

The PCG said it has already removed the barrier upon the instructions of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, who also heads the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea. 

Located 229.6 kilometers (124 nautical miles) away from Zambales, Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal,  is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and is considered as one of the traditional fishing grounds for Filipinos.

However, the PCG over the weekend said the China Coast Guard (CCG) installed a floating barrier in the southeast portion of the shoal, preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the area to conduct their fishing activities.

China, meanwhile, said it installed the floating barrier to prevent the Philippine vessel from trespassing into the shoal.

China refers to Bajo de Masinloc as Huangyan Island. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines is prepared to take all "appropriate measures" to enforce its rights over Bajo de Masinloc.

The DFA pointed out that the 2016 arbitral award won by the Philippines "affirms it (Bajo de Masinloc) as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fisherfolk." —KBK, GMA Integrated News