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Inside the P15-billion ASEAN hosting budget

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 11/18/2017 Kristine Joy Patag

MANILA, Philippines (First published on November 17, 4:44 p.m.) — A budget of P15.5 billion to host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as chair raised eyebrows in the Philippines, a developing country still recovering from a five-month war against militant extremists.

The staggering amount was allotted from the 2017 total budget of P3.3 trillion. The ASEAN budget, in particular, is part of the allocation for the Office of the President, which ballooned to P20.2 billion or more than 600 percent from the last outlay of P2.8 billion of former President Benigno Aquino III.

Critics find the budget too lavish for the hosting, stressing that the "huge amount of taxpayers' money could have been utilized and rechanneled to provide the basic social services and needs of poor Filipino families."

READ: Government hit over huge budget for ASEAN events | Critics on ASEAN: Failed PR stunt, monstrous, glitzy

For this year's summit, the Philippines welcomed a total of 21 global leaders, including heads of states from ASEAN Dialogue partners such as the US, Canada, Russia, Australia, India, Republic of Korea, Japan, Timor-Leste, New Zealand, and the UN.

Rotating ASEAN chairmanship

Hosting of the summit is determined  by annual rotation, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of member-states.

For the regional bloc's 50th anniversary, the Philippines served host for global leaders in a series of more than 260 conferences, that culminated in the three-day summit on November 12-14.

"A Member State assuming the Chairmanship shall chair the ASEAN Summit and related summits, the ASEAN Coordinating Council, the three ASEAN Community Councils, relevant ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies and senior officials, and the Committee of Permanent Representatives," the ASEAN said in its website.

On the last day of the summit, President Rodrigo Duterte turned over the ASEAN chairmanship to Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long.

READ: World leaders in Manila: Key events at ASEAN summit

a man eating a hot dog © Provided by The Philippines Star[Philstar Daily Inc.]
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, hands over the gavel to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a transfer of ASEAN Chairmanship at the closing ceremonies of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. AP/Aaron Favila, POOL

Budget breakdown

The Department of Budget and Management on Thursday released the breakdown of the P15.5 billion allotted for the regional bloc's meeting:

  • Office of the President - P11,074,760,000
  • Department of Tourism - P749,563,000
  • Presidential Communications Office - P1,457,697,000
  • Department of Trade and Industry - P177,678,000
  • Department of Interior and Local Government - P2,000,000,000

The DBM noted that it has yet to receive a breakdown of expenses for the ASEAN Summit from November 12-14.

"The actual expenses will be determined by the implementing agencies and the ASEAN National Organization Council. They will send DBM a full report of their expenses for fiscal year," the DBM added.

READ: Palace to ASEAN hosting critics: They don't know what happened beyond closed doors

Too lavish?

The Center for Women's Resources hit the Duterte administration for spending P15.5 billion for the year-long summit.

The research and training institution noted that tough-talking leader has consistently slammed the "government officials for their lavish lifestyles and for unnecessary overspending in foreign engagements." a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by The Philippines Star[Philstar Daily Inc.]

The CWR also recalled that Duterte "lambasted" his predecessor for "excessive preparations during the visit of Pope Francis which has resulted [in] disruption of people's lives."

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno also once slammed Aquino's set budget when the Philippines hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in 2015.

This year's ASEAN Summit budget is P5 billion higher than Aquino's APEC Summit budget.

The Aquino administration spent P10 billion for the APEC Summit. APEC, which culminated on November 13-19, also saw 21 global leaders in the Philippines.

The group also pointed out the "lavish show-off" for a three-day event could have been spent on rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City that has been under siege for almost five months due to Islamic State and Maute terrorist groups.

Task Force Bangon Marawi chief Eduardo Del Rosario said rehabilitation of the capital of Lanao del Sur will start mid-year of 2018.

a large ship in a body of water © Provided by The Philippines Star[Philstar Daily Inc.]
In this Oct. 19, 2017, file photo, a mosque with its dome blasted out with holes is seen at the battle-scarred Marawi city in southern Philippines, two days after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of the city. AP/Bullit Marquez, file

For 2017, Budget Chief Benjamin Diokno said that the government has allotted P5 billion for the post-conflict needs of Marawi City.

Budget set before Marawi conflict

International affairs expert Julio Amador III however noted that the budget covered for the year-long activities, before war hit Marawi City. The national budget for the year 2017 was approved by the Congress on Oct. 19, 2016.

In an e-mail interview with Philstar.com, Amador said: "This budget was already allocated even before the Marawi incident; in fact, a huge part of the ASEAN budget was probably dedicated to securing the meetings and facilities precisely to prevent any threats to the delegates in attendance."

The PNP, which is under the DILG, deployed a total of 60,000 personnel for the November summit alone. Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa earlier said the police will focus on Metro Manila,Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) as the venues for ASEAN-related events.

A document obtained by The STAR showed that aside from the police and military contingent deployed, the government would also be fielding 203 patrols cars, 394 motorcycles, 22 armored cars, 30 helicopters, 59 fire trucks, 94 ambulances and 82 sniper teams to help secure the foreign heads of state.

The DILG received P2 billion of the total ASEAN budget.

READ: Full PNP alert for ASEAN summit starts tomorrow

Amador, a former deputy director general of the Department of Foreign Affairs' Foreign Service Institute, said that the P15 billion allocation "also included the celebrations for the 50th year anniversary of ASEAN, which we as chair had to host as well."

"Whoever is ASEAN chair has to spend for hosting the year long chairmanship," he added.

READ: FULL TEXT: Chairman's statement for the 31st ASEAN Summit

President Rodrigo Duterte joins the leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on November 13, 2017. The dialogue partners include New Zealand, Timor-Leste, Republic of Korea, USA, Australia, India, China, and Japan. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO © Philstar.com President Rodrigo Duterte joins the leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on November 13, 2017. The dialogue partners include New Zealand, Timor-Leste, Republic of Korea, USA, Australia, India, China, and Japan. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

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