Duterte's huge intel, confidential funds for 2020 "justified" due to security, West Philippine Sea issues - DBM chief
The huge increase on President Rodrigo Duterte's intelligence and confidential funds in the proposed 2020 budget is "justified" due to the national security threats and issue on the West Philippine Sea, Acting Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said on Tuesday.
Avisado said the 80 percent hike on the Office of the President's intelligence and confidential expenses for next year "is something that is apropos."
"It is to us justified because we ourselves are not privy to the extent of national security issues and precisely I said perhaps any opportune time the President will also be able to share to you or through the major service heads what is the current security situation of the country in light of all these threats and issues affecting the West Philippine Sea, how much more can we make ourselves present in this area?" he told reporters.
The Philippines is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China, which has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. This was despite the Hague ruling invalidating China's historic and sovereign claim through nine-dash line.
Avisado said the increase on the OP's budget is also to respond to peace and order situation in Mindanao, including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The proposed budget for the OP next year amounts to P8.2 billion from P6.7 billion this year. Bulk of the increase would be in intelligence and confidential expenses totaling to P4.5 billion or P2.25 billion each as against the current total amount of P2.5 billion.
In a separate statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also justified the hike in the OP budget.
"The additional amount is also necessary to secure the country from threats coming from sources within and without the country. The intensified efforts of this government, with the Office of the President at the helm, against criminality and various perils against the Philippines' security and sovereignty have indeed created a changed environment in our society where the people feel safe as they go about living their daily lives," he said.
"We intend to maintain such an environment and even improve it in the remaining years of the Duterte presidency," he added.
Panelo also said that in times of national emergencies and calamities, coupled with cries for help from all walks of life, and when the departments and agencies that provide basic services or responses to the public run short of funds, "the OP steps in to extend a helping hand and augment whatever shortage there may be in delivering the requisite assistance."
Comparing the proposed budget for the OP under the Duterte administration with that of the Aquino government, he said it was significantly lower before as "its achievements and accomplishments are nonetheless commensurate thereto in that there was little to no substantial improvement in governance."
He said the Filipinos' "unparalleled approval rating" for the Duterte administration was a proof of its many accomplishments.
"The people have seen and experienced in the three years of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s presidency, an unprecedented success in many fronts, especially in the aspect of law and order, as well as in the overall public administration of the government," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS