MANILA Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday supported Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno's proposal to exempt big-ticket infrastructure projects from the election spending ban.
In a statement, Recto said most infrastructure projects are already behind schedule and can be further "aggravated" by suspending work on the account of the campaign season for the 2019 mid-term elections.
The government spending ban spans from March 29 to May 12.
"How can a beneficial enterprise that is the construction of schools and hospitals be placed in the same category as the carrying of firearms and other prohibited activities?" Recto said.
"Both people and progress lose if the building of facilities that they need will stop during the campaign period, more so if the latter coincides with summer which is the best time, weather-wise, for construction. We should take advantage of this so-called good weather window before the typhoon season kicks in," he added.
He noted that he endorsed a general provision in the Senate version of the 2019 national budget, which would exempt key government infrastructure projects from the prohibition of construction during elections.
The said provision states that: "Notwithstanding the provisions of any law to the contrary, infrastructure projects funded under this Act shall be exempt from the prohibitions against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds and against construction of public works and delivery of materials for public works."
"With the delay in the enactment of 2019 national budget, the above exemption provision is needed for government to catch up with its 'Build, Build, Build' timetable," Recto said.
During the weekly press event Breakfast with Ben on Wednesday, Diokno said economic managers will submit a memorandum to the President to ask the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to halt major infrastructure projects during this year's mid-term elections.
He said they have already identified specific projects, which they will request to be exempted from the election spending ban.
Diokno noted that these include the Build, Build, Build program's 75 flagship projects, in which half are onstream, as well as some major projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways nationwide.
If it's national projects, it will not affect elections on the district level, he said.
Diokno pointed out that requesting for exemption of certain national government projects from the election spending ban has been done before. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency