Press Release
December 10, 2013


The bicameral conference committee today approved the spending package of the national government for 2014 amounting to P2.264 trillion, which includes the P100-billion post-Yolanda rehabilitation fund and key provisions to boost transparency and accountability.

Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said one important feature of the reconciled budget version is that it clips the power of lawmakers to recommend projects after the enactment of the appropriations law pursuant to a decision by the Supreme Court that declared pork barrel funds unconstitutional.

The bicameral panel slashed by P3.2 billion the original proposal of P2.268 trillion put forward by the House of Representatives--the equivalent of the lump sum allocation of 15 senators and the Office of the Vice President under the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF they gave up after the pork barrel controversy erupted.

According to Escudero, the committee also removed the House provisions for consultation with and identification of legislators on programs in the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), the Roxas Law for school building funds and the excise tax.

Aside from removing the pork barrel system in the budget that enabled legislators in the past to determine projects for their annual lump sum allocations, the bicameral conference committee also introduced provisions for stricter rules and guidelines in identifying nongovernment organizations as partners, Escudero said.

He explained that there will be stringent reportorial requirements to Congress, the Commission on Audit and real-time posting on websites on when and where funds are spent by government agencies.

"[We] added a provision imposing the heaviest penalty in the Revised Penal Code, the plunder law and the anti-graft law for those who will violate any provision in the above-mentioned laws in relation to the utilization of savings, realignment and lump-sum funds," Escudero said.

Escudero also explained that the amendments from both sides have been adopted without difficulty because most of it was related to rehabilitation and disaster-preparedness programs. "Big ticket items like the P100 billion rehabilitation fund breezed through since both houses acknowledged the urgency for which the fund will be used. We also recognized the availability of the fiscal space from which we will source this fund from."

He said P20 billion of the rehabilitation fund will be sourced from programmed funds, with the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Health (DOH), state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local government units as implementing agencies. The rest of the financial requirement for post-Yolanda work will come from unprogrammed funds.

Escudero said lawmakers are working on the ratification of the budget by Wednesday so it can be transmitted to the Palace for the President Aquino's signature.

"We are conscious of the fact that the timely passage of the budget is the key to fuel not only the entire government machinery but also our capability and capacity as a nation especially in this challenging time," Escudero said.

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