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Rody signs P3.35-T ‘pro-poor, pro-investment’ budget
MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte yesterday signed into law the next year’s P3.35-trillion budget 2017, which he said would benefit the poor and vulnerable sectors.
Duterte said the first ever budget of his administration would be “pro-people, pro-investment, pro-growth and pro-development.”
“I have said this before and I will reiterate it. The budget is useless if the Filipino is not at its center. This budget is a credible budget where every peso will be spent for the government, for the gains of the Filipino people,” Duterte said at the signing ceremonies in Malacañang.
“The signing of the GAA (General Appropriations Act) affirms the national government’s commitment to support the needs of our people, to enhance basic social services and projects,” he added.
Duterte lauded Congress and the budget department for the timely approval of the national expenditure program.
He lamented that the “bottom up approach” of the previous administration had eaten up most of the budget this year.
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“What was left to me was the budget for the maintenance and (other operating expenses) so when the drug problem erupted, we never expected that the number of addicts would turn out to be hundreds of thousands, I was really helpless,” Duterte said.
“I could not get the money from the other departments and use it for the purpose of another department because I said, that would be stealing from Paul to pay Peter,” he added.
The education department got the highest allocation with P544.1 billion. The budget will fund basic education facilities, salaries of teaching and non-teaching positions and the development of learning resources for more than 20 million students.
Poor but deserving Filipinos will also be given access to tertiary education through the P58.72-billion allocation for state universities and colleges and the P18.7-billion outlay for the Commission on Higher Education.
The social welfare department was given P128.3 billion, a significant portion of which would go to the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and monthly rice subsidies for poor households.
“This annual amount includes P78.2 billion for the CCT program. CCT beneficiaries will also receive a monthly rice allowance to ensure that there is food on the table for every Filipino family,” Duterte said.
Looking after young and old
“Both the young and the old will also be taken care of, (through) the supplemental feeding program for daycare children and the increased coverage of the social pension for indigent senior citizens,” he added.
The health department was allotted P96.3 billion to provide the poor access to modern health facilities and services. The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. was given P53.22 billion to fund the universal healthcare program.
The interior and local government department got P148 billion primarily to help it fight illegal drugs more effectively, build new jail facilities and increase the allowance for prisoners.
The Duterte administration also allocated P486.9 billion for internal revenue allotment to enable local governments to implement development programs.
“The national intensification and the household electrification program in off-grid areas will also be prioritized,” the President said.
“This aims to empower our kababayans in provinces so they can be efficient and productive stakeholders in revitalizing our communities and industries,” he added.
The defense department was given P137.2 billion for territorial defense, security and stability services.
“We will pursue the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program for the maintenance of major equipment, aircraft vessels and increase in ammunition capacity, as well as the veterans’ hospitalization benefits,” Duterte maintained.
“Our men and women in uniform deserve development because they dedicate sweat and blood to protect our beloved Philippines,” he added.
Food for everyone
After signing the budget program, President Duterte said he wanted to spend P1 billion to provide food for everyone during the holiday season.
Duterte said he is hopeful that the giving of food could still be done even if he had already signed the P3.35-trillion budget for next year.
“We have the budget for next year. But my problem is I do not have the time. It was given to us late. I would have wanted also to spend another billion… I hope it can be done,” the President said.
“I would like… another P1 billion to be spent for the food for all during Christmas season,” he added. “I’m sure there’s enough time.
“So not much really but if I have P1 billion and I have still time to distribute it but otherwise, we put off to just before New Year, on (Dec.) 30.”
Duterte said he would not distribute fresh food, which could get spoiled easily.
“We will just go for delicious canned goods,” he said.
In next year’s budget program, the public works department was given P454.7 billion while the transportation department was allotted P53.3 billion to bankroll public infrastructure, one of the priorities of the Duterte administration.