As defenders of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine Navy (PN) should be entitled to full logistical and operational support from the government, including an increase in their confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in the 2024 national budget.
This was the declaration made by Senate President Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri, who vowed to fight for the augmentation of the CIF allocations of the two agencies responsible for patrolling and protecting Philippine territory from China’s illegal activities and encroachment.
“Dahil sa nangyayari sa West Philippine Sea, gusto po namin dagdagan ang budget ng ating mga sundalo at Navy personnel, lalo na sa Navy at coast guard, to strengthen our external defense capabilities para magkaroon po tayo ng credible defensive posture,” Zubiri said in a radio interview last Saturday.
Zubiri talked about the recent decision of the Senate to revive the Select Oversight Committee on CIFs (SOCCIF), which will review the use of CIFs of some 30 agencies and determine if there is a need to realign some of the funds to better use.
The Senate chief lamented that the CIFs of the PCG and PN, tasked to protect the national territory in the WPS from China’s aggressions, are at a measly P10 million and P39.74 million, respectively.
“Imagine, yung Coast Guard ay P10 million lang yung confidential fund nila. Yung ibang ahensya ng gobyerno, hundreds of millions. So, I would suggest na pwede nating ilipat doon sa mga kailangan talaga ng inteligence funds at madagdgan ang intelligence funds to protect us both internally and externally,” Zubiri said.
The Coast Guard and Navy funds are a far cry from the CIF of the Department of Education under Vice President Sara Duterte for 2024 amounting to P150 million.
He assured that once the Senate receives the 2024 national budget from the House of Representatives, they will push for realignments or changes in the CIFs to boost the intelligence capabilities of the PCG and PN.
“Iyan po ang pangako namin sa inyo, may maiiba pagdating po sa intelligence funds at confidential funds. And I think it will be reflected in the outcome of the Senate hearings of the budget,” the Senate leader said.
The PCG’s intel funds remained at P10 million since 2022, though the agency’s proposed total allocation in the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP) increased to P24.01 billion from P21.92 billion in 2023.
In reviving the SOCCIF to review the CIFs of 30 government agencies, Zubiri said they will be determining if their respective funds were properly used in the past.
“Kung sa tingin po natin ay okay naman po ang paghingi nila ng mga budget allocations na ito, then we will approve it. Pero kung hindi at sa tingin namin may pagkukulang, eh di either dagdagan namin or tanggalin naman kung may problema,” he expressed.
The Senate President added that if the committee finds out that the use of the CIFs can be allocated in an agency’s regular budget in a line item, then they will move to recommend it during the budget deliberations.
“Magbibigay po tayo ng rekomendasyon sa plenaryo. We have to vote in the committee kung ito bang ahensya na ito dapat bang tapyasan o tanggalin o liitan ang kanilang intelligence funds,” Zubiri explained.