Sen.Pia unfazed by veto on heritage budget

News Release
14 January 2015

Sen.Pia disappointed, but unfazed, by budget veto on additional funds for cultural agencies

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has expressed her disappointment over the presidential veto on special provisions in the P2.6-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2015 which would have authorized government cultural agencies to fully retain their income.

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, Cayetano lamented the President’s line-veto of several items in the 2015 GAA (Republic Act 10651) that sought to lift the cap on income that may be retained and used as revolving funds by the National Museum (NM), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), respectively.

It was the senator herself who introduced the provisions as part of the Senate amendments to the 2015 budget before the measure was submitted to Malacanang for the President’s signature.

Cayetano explained that the disallowed provisions would have allowed NM, NCCA and NHCP, “to augment their operational budget to help save endangered heritage sites across the country.”

“These provisions only sought to give our cultural agencies the authority to retain income they generated from their own activities. Instead of making them beg for additional funding every year, isn’t it better that they use their own income? It doesn’t make sense that the little amount they earn has to be returned to the national treasury given that the budget needed to maintain and protect our cultural agencies is inadequate,” she stressed.

This “income,” she pointed out, refers to park and museum entrance fees and donations, sales of reproductions, cultural items and publications, rendering of technical services, conferences, workshops and other similar activities undertaken by the three agencies.

“It is unfortunate the veto came at this crucial time when many of our cultural and historical properties are under threat of demolition or defacing by private developers, with local officials acting as accomplices, in brazen defiance of our national heritage law,” explained the senator, who led a Senate probe into endangered historical sites last year.

“While I respect the Executive’s position, the veto does not bode well for heritage conservation this year. In 2014, we saw how many historical sites, such as the Army and Navy Club, the Sta. Ana Archaeological Zone, and our national monument itself, the Rizal Shrine in Luneta, were pillaged in the guise of ‘development.’ What other heritage sites are we bound to lose this year?” she asked.

“With insufficient personnel and a small operational budget, our cultural agencies experience difficulty in carrying out their constitutional mandate to safeguard historical sites and issue cease-and-desist-orders against violators of our heritage law. And now, we are denying them access to income they could otherwise reinvest to promote and protect our heritage.”

But the senator is unfazed by the budget veto. “I am about to file a committee report in the Senate increasing the amount the cultural agencies can retain to augment their revolving funds.”

The line-vetoed provisions introduced by Cayetano are as follows:

- Department of Education (DepEd)-National Museum, Special Provision No.1, ‘Revolving Funds for Museums,’ Volume II-A, page 569;
- Other Executive Offices (OEO)-National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Special Provision No.2, ‘Revolving Funds for Projects of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines,’ Volume II-B, page 1161; and
- OEO-National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Special Provision No.2, Special Provision No.2, ‘Revolving Fund for Fabrication of Cultural Items and Printing Publications,’ Volume II-B, pages 1157-1158.

She explained that the vetoed provisions sought to amend the laws setting the limits for the income that may be retained by NM, NCCA and NHCP, respectively.

The existing income limits for the three agencies are as follows: P2 million for NM under Section 26 of RA 8492 (National Museum Act); P500,000 for NCCA under Section 22 of RA 7356 (NCCA Act); and P1 million for NHCP under Section 24 of RA 10086 (Strengthening Peoples’ Nationalism through Philippines History Act).

Explaining the budget veto, the President in his message to Congress affirmed the limit expressly set under the three laws for the revolving funds of the respective cultural agencies. #

Photo: “It doesn’t make sense that the little amount they earn has to be returned to the national treasury given that the budget needed to maintain and protect our cultural agencies is inadequate.”

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