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Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

The Presidential approval of the P1.227 trillion 2008 General Appropriations Act with minimal direct item vetoes is a reaffirmation of the Executive-Legislative common agenda of providing adequate basic social services and enhancing infrastructure development.

It also signifies the Executive’s guarded concurrence with the congressional thrusts on non-confrontational debt service reduction policy and accelerated impartial stress on reproductive health and population management.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. is mistaken when he accused Malacañang of deliberately delaying the approval of the 2008 General Appropriations Act (GAA) even as it is publicly known that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to sign tomorrow, 11 March 2008, the annual budget law.

Only 12 days have elapsed since the enrolled bill on the national budget was received by Malacañang on 27 February 2008 after it was signed by Senate President Manuel Villar on 26 February 2008, six days after Speaker Prospero Norgales signed the budget bill on 20 February 2008, which was transmitted to the Senate on the same day.

The appropriations for congressional districts and senatorial constituencies traditionally labeled as “pork barrel” are relatively small and cannot compensate, even if they are scrapped, for the much larger revenue loss in the event the VAT on oil is suspended.

Scrapping these allocations would mean more indigent patients not getting free medical assistance, more students deprived of scholarships, more rural folk denied of livelihood support, more people without potable water and electricity and more unemployed because of fewer infrastructure projects.

The P3.9-B net increase in the annual budget of DPWH is not a “pork barrel” insertion but an appropriation for priority locally-funded projects which were overlooked or not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the President to Congress.

This clarification is being made to correct the headline of the news account which appeared in the Philippine Star yesterday (12 January 2008) reading “Pork barrel padded by P4 B, not P13.6 B, says Lagman”.

The grossly inaccurate revelation of former senator Franklin Drilon of an expanded “pork barrel” in the House version of the 2008 General Appropriations Bill is malevolently designed to torpedo and derail the forthcoming bicameral meetings on the disagreeing provisions in the House and Senate versions of the national budget bill.

Drilon’s misleading disclosure is intended to create a wedge between the House and Senate on the eve of the one-on-one meeting between me and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and head of the Senate Bicameral Conference Committee panel.