Press Release
July 20, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today batted for the immediate reconvening of the bicameral conference committee to make a last try to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the 2006 national budget.

Pimentel said it would be unfair to the nation if the new budget is not approved since this will mean forfeiture of additional funds for projects and services that aim to uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and disadvantaged sectors of society.

Its much better if the 2006 budget is passed than having a reenacted 2005 budget. Let the funds that were cut from the appropriations of the Office of the President be realigned to agencies that suffer from insufficient resources in proportion to their mandated tasks, he said.

According to Pimentel, the agencies to which the funds may be transferred include the Department of Education, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Science and Technology.

He said, however, that the Senate should stand firm on its decision to scrap the P5 billion Kilos Asenso and P3.7 billion Kalayaan Barangay funds which he branded as additional pork barrel of the President.

The minority leader said the Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan Barangay funds were created to enable the President to reward local officials who do her bidding.

These funds are intended to make local officials minions and automatons of the President so that they would support her initiative to amend the Constitution to perpetuate herself in power and to turn a blind eye to the plunder of the economy, oppression of the people and corruption that characterize the administration, he said.

Pimentel said local executives, instead of badgering the Senate for the restoration of the Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan Barangay funds, should press hard for the approval of the 2006 national budget, amounting to more than P1 trillion, so that they would not be deprived of the P15 billion increase in their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) this year.

Local government units are entitled to P166 billion IRA under the 2006 budget compared to P151 billion under the 2005 budget.

Pimentel deplored President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos obstinate stand for the full restoration of the budget cuts imposed by the Senate instead of encouraging the senators and congressmen to look for a mutually-acceptable compromise at the bicameral conference committee level.

He warned that failure to enact the 2006 national budget, which is more than P100 billion less than the P918 billion 2005 budget, will badly hurt the administration in terms of undermining its goal of higher economic growth rate this year.

The minority leader said the deadlock over the budget bill will remain unless the Palace gives the go-signal to its legislative allies for the resumption of bicameral conference committee negotiation.

If the President seems uninterested in the approval of the 2006 budget, Pimentel said the only logical explanation is that a reenacted budget will give the President a free hand in spending P48 billion worth of savings.

He said Mrs. Arroyo can use these savings to buy off congressmen by granting them additional pork barrel funds to blunt the second impeachment case against her.

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