(Screengrab from House of Representatives Zoom live video)

MANILA – Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman called on his fellow lawmakers to increase the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to generate employment in provinces and remote areas in the country.

Alam natin yung infrastructure sa DPWH, madaling maglikha ng trabaho sa distrito, sa munisipyo at sa probinsya. Malaking (bilang ng) trabaho din ang nabawas sa ating kababayan dahil sa malaking slash ng budget ng DPWH (We all know that infrastructure projects of the DPWH easily create jobs in districts, towns and provinces. A big number of jobs have been lost because of the big slash in the DPWH's budget)," Hataman said during Tuesday's start of plenary deliberations on the PHP5.268 trillion proposed national budget for 2023.

Under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the national government to Congress, DPWH has a heavily slashed proposed budget of PHP717.31 billion, down by 8.7 percent from this year’s PHP785.24 billion approved budget.

Hataman raised the question after one of the sponsors of the proposed national budget, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, said in her sponsorship speech that one guiding principle in crafting the 2023 spending bill is economic recovery.

Kanina, binabanggit nyo yung infrastructure ay multiplier and engine ng ating economy, pero bakit dito sa NEP 2023 nagkaroon ng PHP68.4 billion slash sa budget ng DPWH? So ang ibig sabihin ba nito, malaki-laki din ang nabawas sa GDP contribution ng infrastructure natin (You mentioned earlier that infrastructure is the multiplier and engine of our economy, but why is there a PHP68.4 billion slash in the DPWH's budget for NEP 2022? So this means there is a big drop in the contribution of infrastructure to our GDP?)” Hataman asked.

Quimbo then responded by saying the infrastructure budget is not only lodged in DPWH but in other agencies as well, noting that the proposed 2023 budget also contains funds to enhance digital infrastructure, bringing the infrastructure allocation to a total of PHP1.019 trillion.

Hataman, however, said while he accepts Quimbo's opinion, he still believes that the big slash in the DPWH's budget is still improper, anticipating the adverse effect of this move on employment, especially in the far-flung areas in the country.

Gusto nating malaman kung bakit iyun ang na-reach na decision ng DBCC (Development Budget Coordination Committee) pagdating sa budget ng DPWH (We want to know why the DBCC came up with such a decision when it comes to the DPWH's budget),” the Basilan lawmaker said.

Kasi katulad naming malalayong lugar na napag-iwanan dahil sa mga gulo ng nakaraan at ngayon lang medyo natahimik, talagang napakahalaga ng infrastructure (For me who is also from a far-flung area, we were left behind because of turmoil from the past and it is only now that we have seen peace and order. This is why infrastructure is very important to us),” he added.

Quimbo, meanwhile, said the DBCC will yield to the wishes of Congress and that she will support Hataman's call to boost infrastructure spending. (PNA)