House leader to file P50-B supplemental budget for pension fund

The chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations said Tuesday he would file a PHP50-billion supplemental budget to augment the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for retired uniformed personnel in the 2021 national budget.

ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap made the statement after Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, a known ally of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, blamed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for the decrease in the budget of the 2021 PGF by PHP20 billion during a privilege speech on Monday.

Yap noted that there were no irregularities in passing the 2021 General Appropriations Act, saying it was deliberated upon by both the House and the Senate, with consultation with the Executive Branch, particularly the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

He further explained that the PHP20 billion was a buffer fund, which the DBM and the legislature all agreed to realign in favor of budget items meant to address the coronavirus pandemic, including the procurement of vaccines and personal protective equipment of medical front-liners.

Yap said the supplemental budget proposal would help absorb the fund deficiency brought about by the PHP70-billion budget cut made by the previous House leadership in the 2020 budget.

“The PGF was slashed by the previous House leadership by PHP70-billion,” he said during his interpellation on Monday. “I was puzzled then as to why that was, considering that there was no pandemic yet at that time.”

Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab also manifested that the 2020 national budget had several realignments, confirming that the PGF was then slashed by PHP74.029-billion by Cayetano and former Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte.

Ungab chaired the House Committee on Appropriations during Cayetano’s term as Speaker.

Meanwhile, Defensor disputed Yap’s claim that the PHP20 billion in military and police retirees’ pension money was diverted to Covid-19 vaccine procurement.

“To set the record straight, the vaccine procurement fund approved by Congress, as recommended by the bicameral conference committee (bicam) and carried in the 2021 budget, was PHP2.5 billion, which is good for just a few thousand doses and which was the amount recommended by the executive branch at the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.

Defensor noted that PHP2.5 billion is the amount that is “sure of funding,” as it is part of the “programmed” portion of the 2021 national budget.

He said Congress allocated an additional PHP172 billion but lodged it in the “unprogrammed” part of the outlay, which means it is available only if there is excess revenue, there is a new tax measure as funding source, or there are loans.

“Through the bicam, Congress juggled at least PHP182 billion in appropriations recommended by President Duterte in his version of the budget. None of that, not even a centavo or peso, was added by the two chambers to the Palace-recommended PHP2.5-billion vaccine procurement fund,” he said.

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