Lawmaker urges gov't agencies to spend infra budgets prudently

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

March 15, 2023, 7:27 pm

<p>AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co <em>(Courtesy of House Press and Public Affairs Bureau)</em></p>

AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co (Courtesy of House Press and Public Affairs Bureau)

MANILA – The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday reminded government agencies with funding for infrastructure projects under the 2023 national budget to obligate and spend those funds this year to prevent underspending and weak absorptive capacity.

In a statement, AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co said these government agencies should spend their budgets in accordance with the government procurement law and regulations.

He also advised agencies to avoid the election spending ban that comes with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Elections in October this year and the rainy season from July to September.

"We are already in the month of March, which means the government agencies have April, May, and June and then from November to December for the infra and another major spending," Co said.

Co noted that this year's PHP5.268-trillion national budget can generate jobs to the unemployed, including the 334,000 construction workers who were "jobless in January 2023 because they were not hired during the 2022 year-end seasonal dip in government spending."

He said the country's economy had 4.09 million more employed workers in January 2023 or during the first month of the implementation of the 2023 General Appropriations Act.

"In other words, 4.09 million found work or work found them. They were unemployed before but were no longer jobless last January," he said. "These job figures confirm how the economy is recovering from the pandemic, and I credit some of that to the 2022 national budget. Those January 2023 employment figures also serve as a good springboard for this year’s budget to follow through on what last year’s budget was able to restart."

He said the government agencies should improve their absorptive capacity and spending "in those months where spending and projects could be hampered".

During the budget deliberations at the House of Representatives last year, he said several lawmakers were pointing out the billions worth of projects and programs that were delayed and not implemented due to underspending.

"We should have much fewer delays and non-implementation this year. But the time the 2024 budget hearings get underway next August, we expect accomplishment reports, not apologies and excuses," Co said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier announced that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved 194 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) worth PHP9 trillion.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said these projects will showcase the administration’s “Build Better More” infrastructure program, which is among the priorities under the 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda.

Of the 194 projects, Baliscan said 123 projects were initiated during the Marcos administration while the remaining 71 projects were from the administration of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

He noted that majority of these infrastructure flagship projects are in physical connectivity and water resources which include projects in irrigation, water supply and flood management.

The list also includes projects in digital connectivity, health, power and energy, agriculture and other infrastructure. (PNA)