The House Committee on Appropriations, in a hybrid meeting on Friday, Sept. 10, terminated its hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) amounting to P9.06-billion for fiscal year 2022.
The original proposed budget submitted by the DICT to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was P34.63 billion.
Act Teachers party-list representative France Castro said the DICT needs to be more assertive in their fiscal requirements to achieve their priority targets in 2022.
Castro also raised the zero-budget allocation on the Free Wi-fi Connectivity Program in public places and the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
With the limited budget, DICT undersecretary Emmanuel Rey Caintic appealed to Congress for the release of their P8-billion Spectrum Users Fees (SUF) fund, which could help their Free Wi-fi Project under the Digital Infrastructure Programs.
Meanwhile, deputy speaker Bernadette Herrera said that according to the DBM, the DICT lacks disbursements plans on their SUF funds, reportedly at 23 percent in the previous years.
Caintic, on the other hand, stated that their SUF funds are normally disbursed at the end of every year and assured Congress that these earmarked revenues are being utilized accordingly.
Also, DICT secretary Gregorio Honasan II denied the DBM’s statement and said their disbursement rate was at 73 to 90 percent during the last quarter of the previous years.
“Lagi hong ginagamit hindi lamang ‘yung disbursement rate namin, kundi the entire budget utilization rate as an excuse, a reason, to peg us down to an unrealistic allocation,” Honasan said.
Likewise, Caintic also urged Congress to increase, or at least sustain, their funding requirement for their Covid-19 response and information systems.
“The P112 million given to us for 2022 will not be enough to sustain the gains we had made in creating the vaccine information systems and other Covid-related systems, which shall serve as the preliminary e-health system of the country,” Caintic said.