Press Release
April 10, 2006


Congress should give priority to increasing the funding allocations for programs and projects that directly meet the basic needs of the people and strengthen the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today stressed this point amid reports that the House of Representatives has raised the amount of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for lawmakers under the 2006 national budget that it approved on third and final reading on April 4.

House members reportedly justified their move by arguing that the congressional districts should have a fair share from the proceeds of the collection of the expanded Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services.

Pimentel expressed apprehension that such reasoning may create the erroneous impression that the legislators agreed to approve the increase in the VAT rate from 10 to 12 percent effective this year in exchange for a bigger pork barrel.

We must bear in mind that it is the ordinary Filipino people who get hurt with the imposition of higher VAT rate, he said.

The minority leader said that since it is the people who have to sacrifice and bear the burden of the hike in the VAT, they should be the first to benefit from the improved revenue collection.

With this in mind, Pimentel said Congress should allocate more funds for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to enable it to extend financial assistance to Filipino inventors and encourage them to develop equipment and devices that can be mass-produced locally, instead of selling their inventions to foreigners.

He said the level of priority for science and technology research and development in public spending is clearly manifested in the fact that the DOST has the lowest budgetary allocation among the line departments year after year.

Funds should also be provided the Department of Energy (DOE) to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and facilitate the shift to ethanol and other green fuels.

More funds should be allocated to Department of Health (DOH) national and local programs that will address the acute problem of malnutrition among children which recently caught the attention of the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (Unicef), Pimentel said.

He said the government should also settle the problems of war veterans and retirees who have been complaining that disability, medical and age old pension benefits that have not been paid to them over the last 16 years.

Pimentel said the Senate will try to reduce the huge intelligence, confidential and other discretionary funds of the President under the 2006 national budget and realign the slashed amount to augment the appropriations of cash-starved agencies that are tasked to deliver essential public services.

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