DILG seeks Congress help to push proposed 2008 budget
Manila (13 September) -- To fulfill its basic tasks of maintaining peace and order, ensuring public safety and strengthening local governance, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is seeking the help of the House of Representatives in raising its recommended budget ceiling of P52.608 billion for 2008.
Secretary Ronaldo Puno said this budget ceiling for 2008, which translates into a measly 2% hike in the Department's appropriations from its 2007 budgetary allocation, will imperil the DILG's ability to carry out its "statutory obligations" and adversely affect its community-based programs promoting health care, attacking terrorism, eradicating illegal drugs and protecting human rights.
The DILG's budget ceiling for 2008 of P52.608 billion, which was recommended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), entails a 3% cutback in its capital outlay from P1.24 billion in 2006 to P1.17 billion in 2008, despite the DILG's urgent requirements in filling the acute shortage of firetrucks, firefighting gear, jail facilities, police manpower, law enforcement logistics, and resources for honing the governance skills of local chief executives.
In presenting this DBM-recommended budget before the House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, Puno expressed the hope "that our congressmen will find a way to help the DILG meet its statutory obligations of maintaining peace and order, ensuring public safety and strengthening the capabilities of our local government units," by proposing an increase in the Department's proposed budget for 2008.
The DILG's original budget proposal is P20 billion more than the DBM-recommended ceiling.
Along with committee members belonging to the majority, opposition congressmen Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, Salvador Escudero III of Sorsogon and Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo assured Puno of their support for the proposal to increase the DILG budget for 2008.
"We should assist the DILG in its budget because public safety is a primordial concern," Rodriguez noted, while Escudero informed Puno of "the full support of the minority in the supplementation of the DILG budget."
According to Puno, the sector that would suffer the most as a result of the DBM-imposed budget ceiling is public safety, particularly fire protection, as he noted that 804 out of some 1,600 towns have either no fire stations or firetrucks and most firefighters lack basic fire protection gear such as helmets, boots and fire-retardant coats.
In Metro Manila alone, the Bureau of Fire Protection needs to replace 156 aging and dilapidated fire trucks, Puno said.
"In many municipalities, we even have fire trucks that are older than the firefighters using them," Puno added, citing the province of La Union, where the representative of its first district, congressman Victor Francisco Ortega, informed him that the provincial firetruck is already 40 years old.
Puno also pointed out to the lawmakers the worsening problem of overcrowding in jails operated by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), as he noted that in some cities and towns, 10 inmates have to share one square meter of jail space.
On peace and order, Puno said the lack of funds under the 2008 budget to train the annual quota of 3,500 new recruits to the Philippine National Police has hampered efforts to hire them. "How can we hire new policemen if we do not have the funds to train them?" he stressed.
Puno likewise noted that as a result of the 10% cut in the budget for the Office of the Secretary from P2.173 billion in 2007 to P1.958 billion in 2008, barangay-based projects such as the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, Barangay Human Rights Action Centers, Barangay Peace and Order Councils, Gabay sa Mamamayan Action Centers, and the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams will be rendered inoperative.
Certain anti-poverty initiatives—among them the Millennium Development Goal Fund project, which allows poor municipalities access to funds for their pro-poor programs; a DILG project to provide "waterless" municipalities access to safe and potable water; and the Bayanihan Savings Replication Project—would no longer be implemented next year as a result of the budget cutback, he added.
Even the operation of community-based law enforcement programs such as Patrol 117 would be curtailed under the DBM-recommended budget ceiling for the DILG. (PIA-MMIO) [top]