Pimentel flags lump sums in 2023 national budget

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

The priorities mirrored in the Marcos administration’s P5.3-trillion national budget for 2023 are “misplaced” as nearly P480 billion in lump-sum allotments may end up being squandered, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said on Sunday.

“It’s a ‘business as usual’ budget with no focus… It’s misplaced,” Pimentel said of President Marcos’ maiden spending program in a radio interview while arguing that next year’s government outlay should bankroll concrete programs to increase domestic food production.

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Pimentel said he and fellow opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros will try to persuade their colleagues to excise from the proposed national budget, which he described as “lump-sum and unprogrammed funds” when the Senate starts its plenary debates on the General Appropriations Bill starting on Monday.

The Senate finance committee, headed by Sen. Sonny Angara, has been holding budget hearings over the congressional recess that started Sept. 30. Both houses of Congress resume sessions on Monday.

‘Objectionable’

The Senate minority leader noted that while the budget of the Department of Agriculture was increased to almost P164 billion, many of the projects that it intends to fund, such as the construction of farm-to-market roads, did not have direct impact on food production.

He also took the executive branch to task for allotting billions of pesos in taxpayer money to items that lacked specific details as required by the Constitution.

The funds allotted to these spending programs of various state agencies will only be wasted and misappropriated, Pimentel warned.

He said among these “objectionable” proposed budget items were the P300 billion allotted for “support to foreign-assisted projects” and the more than P9 billion in intelligence funds of civilian agencies.

According to Pimentel, the funds for these should have been funneled to calamity mitigation and assistance programs, food production projects and additional monthly pension for senior citizens.