SENATOR Joseph Victor “JV” G. Ejercito has asked Congress to restore the slashed allocation in the 2023 budget for the North-South Commuter Railway System and the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway System, noting that the funds are necessary for right-of-way acquisition and value-added tax payments.
“If ever there are budget cuts, definitely, the right of way acquisition will be affected… that means, if there are delays in the right of way and relocation of utilities, definitely, the construction and civil works will also stop,” the senator said in a mix of English and Filipino in a statement on Thursday.
“I appeal to my colleagues to restore the budget that was cut — almost half,” he added.
Mr. Ejercito noted that under the Senate’s version of the budget bill, around P69 billion was removed from the unprogrammed appropriations, initially allocated to pay for ongoing contracts of the railway system and subway system’s contractors.
The House of Representatives’ counterpart bill, on the other hand, cut the proposed budget for the commuter railway system by around P40 billion, while about P10 billion was slashed from the subway system.
The senator noted that the decrease will likely affect scheduling and increase financial charges.
The North-South Commuter Railway System is co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank. The Metro Manila Subway System phase 1 is also under Japan’s official development assistance loans through JICA.
Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, during an earlier session, agreed with Mr. Ejercito, noting that the budget reduction may delay the country’s railway projects by about a year.
“We keep doing this for all of our projects. This is not new. We need to be able to see what the priorities are and hopefully, this is one of them,” she said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan