|House spends P3M for short visit of Bush|
By Maricel V. Cruz, Reporter
The House of Representatives is pulling out all the stops to ensure that it is “presentable” for the visit of US President George W. Bush to the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
On Tuesday Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of
Surigao del Norte, chair of the Committee on Accounts, said that the
House—which is taking cost-cutting measures to deal with the country’s
ballooning budget deficit—has allocated between “P2 million and P3
million” to give a facelift to some of its facilities.
For starters, Barbers told The Times that
the House spent between P20,000 and P30,000 for converting and reconstructing
the coffee shop of the Batasan Complex into a holding area for Americans in
charge of security arrangements for Bush’s visit in Congress, where he is
expected to give a joint-session address.
Barbers said the huge amount had come from
the House’s “savings” from January to June of this year, amounting to P5
million to P6 million.
Bush is expected to stay at the Batasan
Complex less than an hour before helicoptering to his other commitments in
Malacañang and in the US Embassy.
The huge amount was used for repainting,
additional lighting, floorings and others.
Barbers said the budget should have come
from the outlay of the House’s engineering department. But since
Congress allocated not even a single centavo for the outlay, expenses for
Bush’s visit were taken from the savings.
The House has been carrying out a four-day
workweek among other cost-saving measures to help prune the country’s
worsening budget shortfalls.
Budgetary constraints, according to Barbers,
are the reason why Congress decided not to allocate funding for this year’s
additional outlays of all government agencies. Instead, these items were just
incorporated under the “maintenance and other operating expenses” entry.
Several congressmen frowned on the large
spending for Bush’s less-than-an-hour stay at the House.
The minority leader, Carlos M. Padilla of
Nueva Vizcaya, was surprised to find out that the House had allocated funds for
the event, because the Accounts Committee usually says the House is facing
“It was really surprising to know that
Congress has spent millions of pesos for the mere hourlong visit. Bakit bigla
silang nagkaroon ng pera? [How did the money suddenly become available?]”
Rep. Imee Marcos of Ilocos Norte, vice chair
of the Committee on Foreign Relations, criticized the government for
exaggerating attention on the event, to the extent of replacing the Batasan’s
“own security men.”
“Why are we spending so much for the event
when the government always complains about the ballooning budget deficit?” she
Apolinario Lozada of Negros Occidental urged
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to tell the real score on the security system at the
House to shed light on the reported plan of the US Secret Service to take over
security at the Batasan compound.
Citing inside information, Lozada had
revealed that the US authorities had asked the House officials to put more than
2,000 House employees on forced vacation beginning October 11 to give way to the
event “for security reasons.”
“If the reports are true, then the American security personnel have become paranoid because they are assuming that all Filipinos are potential terrorists,” Lozada said.
Bron : Manila Times Online
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