GMA vows to give more projects

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has vowed to match the passage of the 2007 General Appropriations Act with more revenues to meet her target of a balanced budget next year. At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo announced her plan to front-load the funds for crucial projects before the public works ban takes effect two months from now.

Mrs. Arroyo said the social payback that can be expected from 2007 national budget, the first to be passed by Congress in three years, will be doubled with the government’s commitment to increase revenue collection. “This is a brand-new day for the Filipinos toward greater social, economic and political stability. Every item in the budget is designed to push good governance to the limit, drive up investments and deliver social dividends.”

The spending measure was ratified by Congress Monday night and is now awaiting her signature for implementation. “This administration is prepared to match the approval of the budget with the full determination to collect the needed revenues to drive its expenditures, push disciplined spending and resource conservation, cut red tape and check graft and corruption,” the President added.

Mrs. Arroyo said the twin measures of having a fresh appropriations law and embarking on a more intensive revenue collection drive will bring the country closer to achieving a balanced budget by 2008 and a 7-percent growth rate by 2010.

For his part, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said with the passage of the P1.126-trillion national budget for this year, his agency is now preparing items that can be front-loaded before the public works ban 45 days before the May 14 polls takes effect.

“We can’t wait after the elections. We will be losing five months of good construction if we freeze infrastructure activities on account of the elections. We’ve been behind in infra work,” Andaya said.

Andaya said all front-loaded spending will be done in accordance with the law.

“Only permissible activities as specified by the law during the election season will be carried out so that public services will not be a collateral damage of elections. We’ll just make sure that, as usual, bidding for projects and fund releases will be done in a transparent manner so no one can complain that a project is being done for a partisan political reason,” the budget chief said.

Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code prohibits the “release, disbursement and expenditure of public funds” for certain types of public works activity.

The ban, according to a memorandum made by the legal department of the DBM, does not cover emergency work in calamity areas; foreign-funded projects; maintenance work of existing public works project; and housing-related projects.

The 2007 budget provides for capital outlays to build 3,251 km of roads, 6,000 classrooms, 16 airports, and 1,312 flood systems, among other infrastructure projects.