PRRD plan to use road users tax for calamity aid backed

MANILA Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday said he is open to the proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte to use the road user's tax collected by the Road Board to help calamity victims in the Bicol region.

In a statement sent to media, Lacson said he is also open to the suggestion of House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. of transferring the multibillion peso fund to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Both suggestions may be supported, as long as the usage is compliant with the provisions of Republic Act 8794 which include a menu list that specifies and limits the description of the projects to be implemented utilizing the proceeds of the MVUC (motor vehicle user's charge), Lacson said.

However, Lacson said both proposals needed congressional approval.

He said this could be done when Congress scrutinizes the budget and submits the same for presidential approval.

The Senate is set to continue its scrutiny of the 2019 budget on January 14 when Congress resumes sessions.

Upon its approval in the Chamber, a bicameral conference committee will convene to reconcile the disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions.

The reconciled version will then be sent to MalacaAang for President Duterte's signature.

President Duterte broached the idea of using the road user's tax to aid calamitystricken provinces during a situation briefing with several Cabinet officials in Camarines Sur last Friday.

We will work together, convince Congress. I will not release a single centavo there. But if it (Road User's tax) can be put to good use Okay ako diyan (I'm okay with it), he said.

Unahin na muna ang Bicol (I'll help Bicol first), Duterte said.

Meanwhile, Andaya said all the proceeds from the MVUC should be included in DPWH's fund.

The proceeds need to be included as a lineitem fund in the annual budget of the DPWH in the General Appropriations Act, he said in a statement released Sunday.

This way, the real and full funding level of the DPWH is reflected clearly, unlike today when MVUC spending is segregated and treated as a nonnational budget expenditure, Andaya said.

The House leader added that President Duterte's wishes also makes the proposed bicameral conference committee on the bill more urgent and indispensable.

Senate President ProTempore Ralph Recto agreed with Andaya's pronouncements.

Better to convene the bicameral conference committee and ensure that all funds go through the General Appropriations Act, he said in a statement Monday.

And eventually line item all appropriation. That way it cannot be abused very easily, Recto said.

In a separate statement, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said he also supports Duterte's plan but suggested that the portion for road safety projects will be retained while the remaining portion be allotted for the suggestion of the President.

We cannot sacrifice the whole road safety program, this would mean saving lives too, Ejercito said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency