Senate version of budget blocks payment for Chinese CCTV project

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Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — The Senate's version of the 2019 budget proposes to prohibits government from paying for the camera surveillance project loan deal between the Philippine government and a Chinese state-run firm, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement Tuesday.

Recto said provisions involving the $396.8-million (₱20-billion) loan deal between the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and state-owned China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation (CITCC) have been placed.

The senator claimed the project has signs of a behest transaction "lacking in studies, consultations, validation." He asked paperwork from the National Economic Development Authority in previous Senate hearings, but he said the agency could not provide the documentation.

"Manipis na, minadali pa [It's poorly documented and rushed]. Usually the documentation for a project of this size is voluminous. In this case, halos walang maibigay [they could give next to nothing]," he said.

Recto's statement includes what he said are provisions under the Unprogrammed Fund section of the national budget. It reads:

"No amount appropriated herein shall be utilized for any project intended for public video surveillance and communication system with suppliers or service providers that are considered as serious risks to national security or interest or are involved in cases regarding information leakage, computer or network hacking, and other forms of cyber espionage, whether in the Philippines or in other countries."

Another provision lists down foreign-assisted projects which may draw from authorized appropriations for fiscal year 2019. The project, dubbed "Safe Philippines," is not among the 13 projects listed, Recto claimed.

Safe Philippines aims to install 12,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and provide local government units in Metro Manila and Davao City with integrated operations and command centers, as well as a remote back-up data center.

Recto said ₱7.42 billion was included in the 2019 national budget for this project as early as July. But he warned that the project was only awarded in November 16, 2018, with the supply contract signed three days after.

But the senator clarified that he is for a CCTV-based emergency response system.

"What the Filipino people do not need is one whose evaluation and approval was hastily done, lacks transparency, no consultations, no independent appraisal, is a tied loan and a donor-driven expenditure," he said.