MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives will closely monitor the implementation of the P22-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program next year.
“We will definitely exercise our oversight powers over the CCT program,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told a news conference yesterday.
He said he intends to form the oversight committee provided for under the bill embodying the proposed P1.645-trillion 2011 national budget, which the House approved on Tuesday.
But even without the oversight panel, the House could check on the implementation of the program by calling Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman to make an update.
“I have been chairman of the appropriations committee of the House for nine years and I know we can do it. You don’t need a formal body for that. We can call them in the appropriations committee,” he said.
The CCT program aims to extend financial assistance of up to P1,400 a month to the “poorest of the poor” households for a maximum of 12 months. It targets at least two million beneficiaries.
House members belonging to the opposition have expressed apprehension that the House might not effectively exercise its oversight powers over the CCT.
Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said though the Senate-House bicameral conference on the budget adopted the House proposal for the creation of an oversight committee, there was no timetable for its formation and its membership was unclear.
On the other hand, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay lamented that the conferees rejected the House recommendation that unused CCT funds be used exclusively to augment appropriations for education and health.
Belmonte said he personally supported this recommendation.
“I myself believe it should not have been removed. But a bicameral conference is a give-and-take process. So we gained the oversight committee but lost the proposal on health and education,” he said.
Still, he said the House could inquire into where unused portions of the CCT appropriation would be used.
“We have other mechanisms to do it,” he added.
Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, appropriations committee chairman, said he insisted on the two House recommendations during the bicameral budget conference.
However, he said his Senate counterpart, Franklin Drilon, expressed the view that the proposal that unused CCT funds be used exclusively for health and education would infringe on the prerogative of the President to realign savings.
“I agreed with Senator Drilon that at the end of the day, these would be treated as savings, and the President has the sole discretion on where to use such savings,” he said. –Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star)