House OKs proposed P2-trillion budget for 2013

September 24, 2012 at 22:54

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives was expected to approve on second reading late last night the proposed P2.006-trillion national budget for 2013 with some of the questioned allocations left untouched.

The proposed expenditure program is 10.5 percent or P190 billion higher than this year’s P1.816 trillion, consisting of P1.251 trillion of programmed new appropriations and P117.5 billion in standby funds.

As of press time, the chamber was tackling the proposed budget of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that was being defended by Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriations.

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay was grilling Abaya on the issue of Malacañang’s move to withhold release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocations to some members of the opposition bloc.

Abaya cited “political realities” for the decision not to release pork to House members critical of the Aquino administration even as he stressed that President Aquino had nothing to do with the decision.

“So where does the buck stop?” Magsaysay asked.

“The buck stops with the DBM,” Abaya said after conferring with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

After the DBM, the House was to tackle the proposed budgets of the departments of Finance, Energy, the National Economic and Development Authority, and lump sum appropriations.

Earlier in the day, the chamber approved the proposed allocations for the Departments of Education (DepEd); Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and other offices such as the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples.

Compared to the proposed P12.7-billion budget of the Department of Agriculture, which took two days to approve in plenary last week, the proposed P56.2-billion outlay for the DSWD was passed in 10 minutes.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said this was the first time since 2010 that the proposed budget of the agency was approved quickly despite the increased allocation – P44.2 billion – for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

“They (lawmakers) see the efficacy of it,” Soliman told reporters, referring to the CCT which aims to cover some 3.5 million targeted household beneficiaries next year.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said the budget debates on the floor generally proceeded smoothly.

Congress goes on break today until the first week of October to allow aspirants for local and congressional posts to file their certificates of candidacy.

The proposed national budget is expected to be approved on third and final reading in the House by the middle of next month.

Once approved on final reading, the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be sent to the Senate.

Abaya, in sponsoring the proposed outlay, said the GAB is designed to ensure accountability and high performance of government agencies.

The lawmaker said the administration has harmonized all performance management systems of all departments into a single Results-based Performance Management System (RBPMS), which entails a common set of performance scorecards.

Abaya said some 595 municipalities have identified services and projects which have been included in the budgets of 11 national agencies worth P8.37 billion.

“This money will go to community-determined, anti-poverty interventions, such as agriculture and fisheries support, potable water supply, public healthcare and basic education,” he said.

The budgeting process also mandated 12 departments and six government-owned and controlled corporations to involve non-government organizations in assessing the impact of their respective programs, he said.

The social services sector will get the largest share of P698.8 billion or 34.8 percent of the proposed budget, while the economic services sector followed with P511.1 billion or 25.5 percent.

The general public services sector will take the third largest share with P346 billion or 17.2 percent, he said.

The defense sector will get a share of P89.7 billion or 4.5 percent of the total budget.

By regional allocation, Mindanao will get P256.6 billion or 26.1 percent, the Visayas region, P193.8 billion or 19.6 percent; while Luzon will get the biggest share at P538 billion or 54.3 percent, he said.

In terms of departments, DepEd remains at the top with P292.7 billion followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways with P152.9 billion.

Coming in at third is the Department of National Defense with P121.6 billion, followed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government with P121.1 billion.

Earlier, Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) urged the public to continue keeping an eye on the budget, especially on the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs) and other lump sum appropriations.

Social Watch lead convenor Leonor Briones said SPFs are lump sums which are part of the national budget.

“These are not as detailed and specific as the budget proposals of regular agencies. Once these are approved, they are vulnerable to reductions, transfers and ‘adjustments’ since these are lump sums,” Briones said.


Source: Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star. (21 September 2012)

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