Villar seeks restoration of P50B cut in DPWH budget

DPWH Sec. Mark Villar (left). (Mark Villar photo)

DEPARTMENT of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar on Monday said he is seeking an audience with Senator Panfilo Lacson to clarify that the agency needed the P50 billion the latter slashed from the agency’s 2018 budget.

In an interview with reporters in the Senate, Villar said the budget cut would affect the projects critical to the Duterte administration’s infrastructure program.

“All projects have a right of way (ROW) component. You just have to acquire the right of way, when you acquire the right of way, civil works can push through,” Villar said in an interview.

He said all projects under the DPWH budget had a ROW component and there is a process for the agency to acquire the ROW and civil works within one year.

Lacson, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, proposed a P50 billion cut in the Senate version of the DPWH budget for next year. The amount intended to cover ROW is reportedly not being spent due to delays in acquiring ROW.

Several lawmakers in both chambers of Congress opposed slashing the budget but Lacson said he was ready to justify it.

Villar, however, believed he too would be able to justify why they needed the amount Lacson proposed to cut.

Villar pointed out that he wanted to defend the projects that were “implementable.”

Asked what he would do if the cut is not restored, Villar said it is not for him to decide on his agency’s budget but merely recommend it.

“The budget is not for me to decide. The budget is an act of Congress. We can only recommend,” he added. rw: wjg