LEADERS of political parties at the House of Representatives have agreed to reallocate the confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) to government agencies “chiefly” responsible for intelligence and surveillance amid the series of “provocative” incidents in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, the lawmakers said among the agencies that should be given more CIF are the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica), National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The joint statement was signed by Representatives Michael John Duavit (First District, Rizal), Johnny Pimentel (Second District, Surigao del Sur), Eleandro Mendoza (Romblon), Jose Aquino (First District, Agusan del Norte), Angelica Co (BHW party-list), and LRay Villafuerte (Second District, Camarines Sur).
They said the decision underscores the need to ensure that resource allocation aligns with national priorities and the urgent needs of the citizenry, and also reflects their commitment to a budget that is balanced, equitable and serves the true needs and aspirations of the Filipino people.
“Recognizing the rising security threats in the West Philippine Sea and the need to secure top officials, these agencies are better positioned to counteract security threats, protect our territorial waters, and secure the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to traditional fishing grounds,” read the statement.
On Sunday, September 24, 2023, the PCG and BFAR bared the discovery of floating barriers installed by the China Coast Guard in the Southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc, which is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
China said the floating barriers were placed to prevent Philippine vessels from trespassing as they maintained jurisdiction of the area.
The PCG removed the floating barriers as it reiterated the country’s sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Bajo de Masinloc in accordance with the 2016 arbitral ruling, which also affirms that the area is among the traditional fishing grounds of Filipino fishermen.
The lawmakers said the action of China not only impedes the rights and livelihoods of the Filipino fishermen but also disrupts the prevailing atmosphere of regional peace and collaboration.
Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said they also agreed to reallocate funds “that we feel are not necessary for the use of certain agencies and allocate them to the intelligence community,” including the PCG and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He said they will review all agencies that were allocated with CIF, including the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd).
Under the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is asking for P5.77 billion for intelligence funds and P4.864 billion for confidential funds.
Intelligence fund is being used for information-gathering activities of uniformed and military personnel, and intelligence practitioners that have a direct impact on national security while confidential expenses may be used for surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support its mandate or operations.
Nearly half of the over P10 billion CIF for 2024 will go to the Office of the President, while the OVP and DepEd, which are both under Vice President Sara Duterte, will get a total of P650 million.
The OVP and DepEd’s CIF is higher than the combined P438.2 million confidential funds allocated for the Department of National Defense and Nica by the National Government for 2024. (SunStar Philippines)