LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Benguet Caretaker Congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap disclosed that Congress will be working for the inclusion of the P20 billion previously earmarked for the pension of retired uniformed personnel that was realigned in the 2021 national budget in the upcoming Bayanihan 3 law that is being raided to continuously address the serious negative effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to the country’s economy
Yap, who chairs the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, pointed out that it is unfair to conclude that the P20 billion supposedly earmarked for the retirement benefits of uniformed personnel in this year’s annual budget was used to fund the programmed development projects in Benguet as the same is not the case since there was no increase in the funding for projects in the province after the bicameral conference committee agreed on the final version of the budget where the realignment of the retirement benefits happened.
He added the problem of the retired uniformed personnel happened in 2018 and that the same was provided with a P50 billion in the 2020 annual budget to address their retirement benefits.
However, the chairman of the House committee on appropriations pointed out that members of the bicameral conference committee then where he was not a member realigned some P70 billion to fund priority development projects of concerned government agencies that included the P50 billion allotted for the aforesaid retirement benefits.
Under the 2021 annual budget, Congressman Yap explained that during the bicameral conference committee deliberations on the realignment of funds to help enhance the government’s anti-COVID response, the P20 billion for the retirees was inadvertently included in the pooled funds that were re-allocated for the various development projects of the government but no funds from the same went to Benguet because the funds for the province’s previously identified projects were already finalized in the House version and approved by the bicam without any changes.
The lawmaker claimed that it is unfortunate that the realigned funds for retired uniformed personnel is being lined to the huge funds that the province was able to get from the public works department when the list of priority development projects and the funds for the same originated from the public works department, especially that most of the projects will be implemented along national roads which is the jurisdiction of the said agency.
According to him, when it comes to the priority projects of the public works department, it will be the agency that will solely identify the projects that need to be funded from the agency’s limited allocations and that the same will be spread in several years if the budget will not be sufficient to complete big ticket projects.
However, in the case of Benguet, Congressman Yap admitted that he persistently lobbied for the inclusion of the funds that had been earmarked for the upgrading of the Wangal Sports Complex amounting to around P190 million and the P200 million each for the separate road openings leading to Tacadang, Kibungan and Kayapa, Bakun which are not the priority projects of the public works department because they are not part of the national road system but it is the need of the people living in the said remote communities.
As a solution to the problem that was created by the realignment of the retirement benefits of uniformed personnel, he stipulated that Congress is working on the inclusion of the P20 billion in the upcoming Bayanihan 3 law or the proposed supplemental budget purposely to continue enhancing the government’s anti-COVID response to allow a huge portion of the population that had been heavily impacted by the pandemic to recover and for the possible revival of the country’s economy.
The caretaker congressman asserted that leaders of Congress are now closely working together to address the aforesaid problem because the retired uniformed personnel deserve to get their prescribed benefits on time and government could not afford to simply abandon them because of the services that they have rendered in preserving and protecting the greater interest of the Filipino people.
While it is true that he made a pronouncement that he will take full responsibility on what had transpired in the bicameral conference deliberations that caused the realignment of the funds for retired uniformed personnel, Congressman Yap emphasized that it does not mean that the funds were the ones used to fund the more than P13 billion that had been identified by concerned government agencies as the high impact development projects in Benguet.
Yap asserted that as a matter of procedures, lawmakers identify the funds that should be realigned and then re-appropriate the same for the projects that they deem should be the priority and that the same usually transpires during the bicameral conference deliberations, thus, a single lawmaker cannot actually maneuver and allocate the funds for his chosen projects because there is a need for the consensus of the members before the final list of priority projects will be included in the final version of the budget that will be submitted to the President for his signature.
Congressman Yap reiterated that no funds from the P20 billion realigned benefits for retired uniformed personnel were appropriated for the ongoing development projects in Benguet because the list of priority projects and the funding requirement for the same were already finalized in the House version and that there was no increase in the allocation of Benguet after the bicameral conference committee deliberations where the realignment transpired. By HENT