2017 budget pork-free, says Nograles

House of Representatives appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles on Thursday defended the PHP3.35 trillion national budget for 2017 against Sen. Panfilo Lacson's allegation that it is riddled with pork barrel.

"That's not true. There is no pork barrel. There is no PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) in the budget. There are no post-enactment projects in the budget," Nograles said in a statement.

"You will only see specific line-item projects that have been identified by different agencies and departments of government. I think that Senator Lacson is confused about this issue," he added.

Nograles made the statement in response to Lacson's claim that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regained the more than PHP8 billion cut from its 2017 budget.

The Davao City lawmaker explained that the budget process involved a two-tiered approach wherein different agencies and departments of government identify ongoing projects in tier 1 and then identifies new projects in tier 2.

All the projects underwent the Department of Budget and Management's evaluation before the National Expenditure Program was finalized and submitted to the House of Representatives, thus ensuring that this year's budget is compliant with the high court's ruling on PDAF.

"From its inception the projects and programs have been itemized and spelled out clearly and specifically. From the House all the way to the Senate the DBM monitors every movement of the budget process to ensure there is no violation of the SC (Supreme Court) decision against pork barrel," Nograles said.

"We in Congress also exercised strict adherence against the pork barrel to ensure that we comply with the SC decision. If anything, we have made doubly sure that projects and programs are even more specific so there will be no room at all for post-enactment," he added.

Nograles also disproved the claim of Lacson that the country's calamity fund was slashed to grant pork barrel for President Duterte's congressional allies.

He guaranteed there would be no shortage of fund that would be used during calamities and other national emergencies.

"Let me reassure the public that the balance of the 2016 Calamity fund as of October 31, 2016 was around PHP30 billion. So we may assume that up to December 31, 2016, the estimated balance may be around PHP25 billion," he said.

This fund will be carried over to 2017. So adding this to the new 2017 appropriations of PHP15.755 billion, the total calamity fund at government's disposal for 2017 will be more than PHP40 billion," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency