MANILA – President Benigno S. Aquino III signed the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) amounting to PhP2.606 trillion during ceremonies at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang on Tuesday.
The 2015 national budget is 15.1 percent higher compared to the previous year, with the President describing it as “the true budget of the people.”
“This is a historic day. For the fifth time, we are on time in passing the budget for next year,” President Aquino said in Filipino in a speech after the signing.
”What is the meaning of true budget of the people? It’s simple. The people’s money is focused for the benefit of the people,” he added.
President Aquino assured that next year’s budget has no pork barrel, marking the fifth year that the national budget has been passed on time.
”We remain committed. There is no longer PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund which was used before as instrument for corruption,” the President said.
President Aquino said the budget process has been sped up and lessened the need for SARO (special allotment release order) and signatures, the budget is good as released.
He assured that the priority projects that have been affected by the decision to declare PDAF as unconstitutional will not go into waste.
The President said part of the approved national budget for next year is the PhP10 billion for reconstruction of areas ravaged by typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.
President Aquino thanked Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad and other officials who contributed for the on-time passage of the national budget.
He also expressed appreciation to the members of Congress, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon as well as Senate Finance committee Chairman Francis Escudero and Housse Appropriations panel head Rep. Isidro Ungab for their dedication to pass the budget on time.
The President also signed the PhP22.7-billion supplemental budget for the year 2014 and thanked Congress for the support.
”Our initiatives will not push through if not of the cooperation of our bosses – the people. I am very thankful to our countrymen for continuing to support the fight for reforms despite so many problems we’ve been facing,,” the President said.
”We will not stop from running after the corrupt and let them pay for the wrong they did to the nation,” he added.
Abad said the 2015 GAA will strengthen fiscal, development, and governance reforms already instituted by the Aquino administration, besides supporting the country’s unique requirements for post-disaster rehabilitation and climate change.
“We are at the doorstep of the Administration’s penultimate year, and the GAA duly reflects President Aquino’s development priorities for 2015. We’re pouring even more investments into the Administration’s anti-poverty and economic growth programs, as well as strengthening governance reforms we’ve helmed so far,” Abad said in a press statement.
Abad said the signing of the 2015 GAA also brought the Aquino administration to its second year of Performance-Informed budgeting, where an agency’s budget for the entire fiscal year is expected to support the accomplishment of specific targets, as outlined in a department’s Performance Information.
Social services are amply supported under the 2015 GAA, with major social welfare protection and development programs getting sizeable budgets for next year.
The Administration’s flagship anti-poverty program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), corners PhP62.3 billion in next year’s National Budget to address the needs of 4.3 million poor families.
Other major allocations under the 2015 GAA include PhP53.9 billion for Basic Education Facilities, which covers the respective construction and repair of 31,728 classrooms and 9,500 classrooms, as well as the development of 13,586 water and sanitation facilities, and the procurement of 1.3 million chairs.
At the same time, PhilHealth premium subsidies get PhP37.1 billion of the total budget to benefit 15.4 million poor and near-poor families, while PhP11 billion will be directed to socialized housing for in-need families, particularly those living in danger zones or high-risk areas.
Economic services are still a major driver in the President’s inclusive growth campaign, as the Administration devotes about four percent of the total budget to strategic infrastructure programs.
Comprising this are PhP185.8 billion for the development of national roads and bridges, as well as PhP10.6 billion to improve the country’s railway systems (including the rehabilitation of LRT Lines 1 and 2 and subsidies to MRT 3), among others.
At the same time, PhP89.1 billion will go towards boosting agricultural production projects under the Department of Agriculture and its attached agencies and various government-owned or controlled corporations.
The Department of Education will received the highest budget amounting to PhP357.1 billion, followed by Public Works and Highways (PhP303.2 billlion); National Defense (PhP144.5 billion); Interior and Local Government (PhP141.4 billion); Health (PhP90.8 billion); Social Welfare and Development (PhP103.9 billion); Agriculture (PhP89.1 billion); Transportation and Communications (PhP59.5 billion); Environment and Natural Resources (PhP21.5 billion); and, Science and Technology (PhP17.8 billion).