Revenge traveling? Marcos overspent travel budget by P84 million
September 26, 2023 | 4:29pm
MANILA, Philippines — While budget constraints affect most travelers, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s frequent overseas trips have incurred excess government expenses to the tune of P84 million.
In 2022, the Office of the President (OP) spent a total of P398 million on travel, exceeding its allocated budget of P314 million as stated in the General Appropriations Act for that year.
This was revealed by Rep. Erwin Tulfo (ACT-CIS) during discussions about the OP’s 2024 budget. Tulfo was speaking for the OP as the agency’s budget sponsor during the House’s plenary deliberations for the proposed 2024 budget.
When asked by Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Partylist) where the OP sourced the additional P84 million, Tulfo said that this came from “continuing appropriations.”
With three months left in 2023, the OP has also spent P480 million or just over a third of its P671 million travel budget, Tulfo said.
Manuel flagged the OP for the nearly two-fold increase in the OP’s travel budget for 2024 (P1.15 billion) compared to 2023 (P671 million).
He asked: “Will the president’s travels and the number of people joining him also double?”
“Does the president plan to go to Formula 1 (F1) in 2024?” he added.
Manuel added that First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos appeared to be “proud” of Marcos attending the F1 series in Singapore last week for “networking” — a trip that was criticized for being insensitive amid the current economic crisis buffeting the country.
Tulfo defended Marcos and said that his visit to Singapore — including the F1 race — was “through an invitation by a group.” Marcos’ attendance in the F1 series was also just a “sideline” event that came after the president attended business meetings, Tulfo added.
Sudden jump in travel spending
The Commission on Audit’s report on the OP in 2022 found that its travel expenses for foreign trips jumped by around 1453% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
State auditors said that the “significant increase” went to expenses incurred by OP for its travels Marcos’ first six months in office. These trips were the president’s visits to Singapore, Indonesia, the United States of America, Cambodia, Thailand and Belgium.
The government has repeatedly defended the president’s foreign trips, saying that this would and has led to significant gains in foreign investment.
Data from the Department of Trade and Industry, however, shows only 9 out of 130 projects clinched during the president’s travels have been “realized,” DTI chief Alfredo Pascual told the House appropriations panel in August. These 9 projects amount to about $205 million.
Manuel pointed out that in 2021, the government clinched $10.5 billion in foreign direct investments. Estimating that the government would have had $5.25 billion by mid-year, Manuel said that the “rate of investments” entering the country appeared to be better during the pandemic when travel was scarce.
“This implies that the president’s travels are not really meant to attract FDIs. Filipinos should not pay for the revenge travel of our top officials,” Manuel said.