THE DEPARTMENT of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said Tuesday that it will support local government units (LGUs) and map out a clear division of labor when the department’s functions are devolved to them.

At a Senate hearing, Senator Francis N. Tolentino, who chairs the committee on local government, read a memorandum circular from the budget department which he said suggests a lack of a clear defining line which projects will be the responsibility of local governments.

“The DPWH should refrain from including in their proposals funding for devolved local projects for LGUs belonging to the first to fourth class income classifications, and include funding requirements and limit subsidies for local projects to LGUs belonging to fifth- and sixth-income classes,” he said, quoting from the circular.

He asked how the department planned to implement the devolution plan, to which Undersecretary Maria Catalina E. Cabral replied that the proposal submitted to the budget department was thorough.

“When we submitted our proposal to DBM, we also submitted a very specific menu criteria and scope of work, where the DPWH, or the National Government, can support or subsidize local infrastructure programs to continue and uplift economic development,” she said at the hearing.

Some second- and third-class municipalities still request capacity-building, she added. “This is where we’re willing to subsidize or help, particularly those that will involve technical expertise, especially those contributing to national agenda.”

“I think collaboration and cooperation with LGUs is very important,” Ms. Cabral said, “so if the National Government will implement, then we’ll have to work together with the LGUs so that they don’t need to include it in their infra development (plans), and there will be no redundancy or overlapping.”

She added that the DPWH will ensure that LGUs get help “not only in technical capacity building but also infrastructure development.”

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said that the department’s P686-billion budget proposal was only compliant on paper with the Supreme Court Mandanas-Garcia ruling, which called for a greater share of the national revenue to be allocated to LGUs. The National Government has responded to the ruling by transferring functions it used to carry out to the local level.

While the DPWH’s allocation for local programs dropped by 88.9% to P31.2 billion in 2022, Mr. Lacson said that the agency’s convergence and special support projects are significantly high, with a proposed allocation of P206.5 billion for next year.

“Different nomenclature but exactly the same program… nothing is being devolved here,” he said. He estimated the actual reduction in DPWH’s budget for 2022 at 5.8%.

“My question is this, what kind of projects will be funded under the convergence and special support program?” he said, calling for a guarantee that this program does not contain local projects covered by the LGU devolved programs. 

The DPWH, Ms. Cabral said, has highly technical projects that will involve multiple competencies. She said the department will ensure the effective regional and local distribution of its convergence projects.

The committee asked the department to submit its devolution transition plan. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan