Angara confronts Lapeña over budget 'courtesy'

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Senator Sonny Angara and TESDA Director General Isidro Lapeña

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — A visibly irked Senator Sonny Angara on Thursday confronted new Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro Lapeña for supposedly bypassing him during the Senate deliberation on the agency's proposed budget for 2019.

During the plenary debate, Senator Panfilo Lacson appealed to Angara, the sponsor of TESDA's proposed budget, to reinstate the ₱4.8-billion cut in the agency's budget.

Under the proposed National Expenditure Program, TESDA has a budget of ₱14.6 billion. However, Senate version only has ₱9.8 billion.

Angara explained the cut was due to the low obligation rate of TESDA.

But Lacson said the agency only has a 58-percent obligation rate because it only received their budget from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in September.

"They are only able to serve only 2.7 percent aggregate for the past three years because of a scarcity of funds. They are appealing to the goodness of your heart kung pwede ibalik na 'yung ₱4.861 billion nila. Anyway, we have agreed to give to CHED 'yung Tulong Dunong na ₱3.8 billion na kasi nadagdag pa 'yung house, makaka-cover na 'yun sa ₱4.8 [billion], kulang nalang ng ₱1 billion," Lacson said.

Angara said he is open to reinstating TESDA's budget, but he lamented how Lapeña bypassed him.

He said Lapeña has talked to a number of senators about TESDA's budgetary concerns except him.

"We're open to that, your honor. Ang akin lang po, ang bagong hepe ng TESDA, ang lahat ng senador kinakausap pero 'yung sponsor nya hindi niya kinakausap," Angara said.

"I think there is a courtesy issue there, Mr. President. I think you will agree with me. As a courtesy, he should've at least told us of his concerns. Nilapitan na nya ibang senador pero kami hindi niya kinakausap," he added.

The session was suspended for a few minutes after the exchange. It was then that Angara confronted Lapeña.

Lapeña was assigned by President Rodrigo Duterte to head TESDA in October amid the multibillion-peso drug smuggling controversy in the Bureau of Customs.