THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) said that the proposal to abolish the Road Board is part of the succeeding package of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP), contrary to remarks by a House leader saying that the agency will be retained.
“We want the current and future funds now earmarked for the Road Board to be part of the General Fund which will then be appropriated by the legislature as part of the normal budgeting process and not allocated by an un-elected Board, which lessens the transparency on the use of the funds,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a statement on Monday.
“Both the House and Senate passed the bill on the abolition of the Road Board, which was in response to our proposals as outlined under Package 1-B of the CTRP. As the Congress already passed this proposal, the DoF’s Sept. 20, 2018 letter to the House leadership requesting it to pass the remaining tax packages expectedly does not include the Road Board abolition,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said.
House Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. in a committee hearing claimed that the DoF backs the proposal to retain the Road Board, as its abolition was not contained in the letter listing the DoF’s legislative priorities.
The DoF also seeks to raise and simplify MVUC rates, or Road User’s Tax, to account for inflation and reduce the multitude of rates to a single amount.
The fees, which are collected by the Land Transportation Office, have been unadjusted since 2004
On Sept. 12, the Senate adopted the House version on the Road Board abolition measure which is now up for bicameral conference committee approval. The House, however, recalled its approval of the bill after President Rodrigo R. Duterte supposedly wanted the House to retain the Road Board.
But Malacañang said that Mr. Duterte was actually for abolishing the Road Board, to reduce opportunities for graft.
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno has said that he has not released funds from the MUVC — with a P45 billion balance currently — despite pressure from legislators to do so ahead of the election campaign.
Mr. Diokno said that the MUVC is supposed to be earmarked for road maintenance works, but past administrations used it on street sweepers.
In a separate statement on Monday, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said that Mr. Andaya’s allegations of ghost flood-control projects of the Department of Works and Highways (DPWH) worth P332 billion were baseless.
The DBM said that Congress approved the fund allocations in the 2017 and 2018 budget.
“The DBM believes that citing these amounts to present a picture of a ‘flood control scam’ facilitated by the DBM is irresponsible and misleading. First, the amount representing the proposed allocation for FY 2019 cannot be accounted for yet. There are no existing projects for 2019 as the 2019 budget has yet to be legislated, much less implemented. Second, the amounts allocated in the FY 2017 and 2018 GAA (General Appropriations Act) were reviewed, amended, and approved by both Houses of Congress before approval of the President,” the statement read.
“The DBM would also like to refute claims that it has allocated funds with preferential treatment to certain areas or districts. The DBM has no hand in determining the projects that should be implemented and in which areas or districts,” it added.
The Budget department said that it is actually the job of the implementing agency to specify line-item allocations on specific projects in specific districts.
“Even then, the DBM is not privy to the specific project listing for the projects under each program and region during budget preparation. The agency budget proposal submitted by the DPWH will only present their target allocation for the upcoming fiscal year by program (i.e. roads, bridges) and total allocation per region. The DBM evaluates each program based on the program’s budget utilization rates in previous years,” the DBM said. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan