By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINE government should ensure transparency in how they decide to use the unprogrammed funds which it increased by P450 billion in the P5.768-trillion national budget for next year.

“Notwithstanding the issue on constitutionality, it is quite concerning that bloated unprogrammed appropriations has become as pattern in the enacted budgets due to ‘pork’ projects,” I-Lead Executive Director Zyza Nadine M. Suzara said in a Viber message.

“It is imperative for the government to be transparent in this whole process of using unprogrammed appropriations,” she said.

Ms. Suzara also raised concern over a provision in the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that authorizes the Executive branch to tap into coffers of government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs), particularly funds that would remain unused or undisbursed. “It is a reality that some GOCCs do not efficiently disburse funds, but their programs have beneficiaries,” she explained.

Unprogrammed appropriations are funds on standby in case of additional priority programs or projects when revenue collection exceeds targets.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel, III said he would challenge the legality of the boosted allocation in unprogrammed appropriations since the Budget department only recommended a total of P281.9 in these funds.

On Wednesday, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman told reporters that she did not see a problem with the increase, noting that unprogrammed funds may only be used in particular cases of excess revenue.

Under the Constitution, Congress is barred from increasing appropriations recommended by the President “for the operation of the government as specified in the budget.”

“They (state agencies) should focus on utilizing the budget on productive spending that will reap benefits only in the short term but also in the long term,” John Paolo R. Rivera, president and chief economist at Oikonomia Advisory & Research, Inc., said in a Viber message.

He said it was crucial for the government to boost spending on modernizing the agriculture sector and improving salaries of teachers and nurses.

Last Wednesday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed into law the bill on the state spending plan next year, which he called a “battle plan” to boost education, combat hunger and to create more jobs.

Terry L. Ridon, a public investor analyst and convenor of the think tank InfraWatch PH, said the state should focus on delivering its social protection programs and irrigation infrastructure lined up next year.

“Government has rightfully placed social protection programs front and center of the 2024 budget, as this will have a major impact on ordinary families facing economic

House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Tuesday said Congress has allotted P500 billion worth of financial assistance to at least 12 million poor Filipino families next year.