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House scraps P1.23b in CIF from budget of 5 agencies

The House of Representatives has scrapped P1.23 billion in confidential and intelligence funds of five agencies, including that of Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, as it realigned P194 billion in next year’s proposed budget.

“We believe that the House of Representatives is on the right side of history,” said Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House appropriations committee.

Quimbo said the House small committee that tackled the amendments agreed to reallocate the funds, including the CIF, to items that address the rising cost of commodities and seek to develop and protect the West Philippine Sea.

“The main goal was to rationalize the allocation of resources to fight inflation, invest in human capital and in our country’s future,” she said.

The scrapped CIF in the proposed 2024 budget included P500 million for the Office of the Vice President, P300 million for the Department of ICT, P150 million for the Department of Education, and P50 million each for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Agriculture.

Ako Bicol Rep. Elizady Co, chairman of the House appropriations committee, said the confidential funds will be realigned to the following frontline agencies in charge of monitoring and protecting the country’s territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea:

– P300-million for the National Intelligence Coordina1ng Agency (NICA);

– P100-million for the National Security Council (NSC);

– P200-million to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for intelligence activities and ammunition; and

– P381.8-million to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the development and expansion of Pag-asa Island Airport.

“Responding to the call of the times and the volatile situation in the West Philippine Sea, the small committee – as mandated by the House Plenary – has decided to realign CIFs to agencies whose principal mandate is to gather intelligence and ensure the protection of our national sovereignty,” Co said.

“We considered the mandate of the agencies since confidential funds are intended for surveillance activities in the performance of the agency’s principal functions. We also looked at the previous year’s budget and utilization levels before coming up with a decision,” Quimbo added.

Quimbo said the entire P10 billion confidential and intelligence funds cannot be removed altogether as there are agencies whose mandates include surveillance, which is paid for by CIF.

She said the move of the House should serve as a clear message to the Department of Budget and Management on what parameters should be met for an agency to be allocated confidential funds.

“I would say that DBM would be more circumspect in granting confidential funds to agencies after this,” she said.

Meanwhile, instead of confidential funds, these agencies will receive the following amounts for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE):

– P30-million for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR);

– P25-million for DICT;

– P30-million for DFA;

– P50-million for the Office of the Ombudsman; and

– P150-million for DepEd’s Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).

To enhance food production and combat inflation, especially the high cost of rice, the small committee also made the following changes to the 2024 proposed budget:

– P20-billion to DA for the rice subsidy program to help sell rice at subsidized prices;

– P40-billion to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to install solar-driven irrigation pumps and subsidize communal irrigation;

– P2-billion to the Philippine Coconut Authority for massive planting and replanting of seedlings;

– P1.5-billion for vaccines against the African Swine Fever (ASF); and

– P1-billion to the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority to construct fishery and post-harvest facilities in Palawan and Kalayaan Group of Islands.

Other reallocations include P43.9-billion to the DOH for Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP), legacy and specialty hospitals, cancer assistance, communicable diseases program and health facility enhancement; P1-billion to UP Philippine General Hospital for MAIP;

P35-billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situa1ons (AICS) and Sustainable Livelihood Program; P17.5-billion to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the TUPAD program for displaced workers;

P10.4-billion for the DOLE-Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Training for Work Scholarship Program; and P17.1-billion for the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Tertiary Education Subsidy and Tulong Dunong Program.

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