MANILA – The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations is looking forward to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submission on Monday of the first national budget proposal of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration, amounting to PHP3.35-trillion for 2017.
It would pave the way for the start of the House budget hearings on government priority projects and programs next year.
Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles (1st District, Davao City) said the subsequent budget hearings, which are set to start Aug. 22, will allow House members to scrutinize each and every department and agency of the government on what they intend to do in order to effect the change that the President wants to bring in to the new administration.
“Being the first budget of President Duterte, we will immediately get a glimpse of the priority projects and programs that he wants his administration to focus on to actualize the change that the President wants to bring in to this new administration,” said Nograles.
Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said the budgets for 2017 until 2022 will support the President’s promise to improve the country’s infrastructure, invest in human resources, modernize agriculture and rural development, and develop lagging regions.
The DBM also said “For Fiscal Year 2017, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte a total obligation budget of PHP3.35 trillion to be proposed to Congress.
The 2017 budget is higher by 11.6 percent than the current year’s budget of PHP3.002 trillion. As a percentage of GDP, the 2017 budget represents 20.4 percent compared to this year’s 20.1 percent of GDP, according to the DBM.
Nograles said he and Diokno held a meeting last week to discuss the components of the 2017 national budget proposal and how to ensure its prompt passage this year.
“Secretary Diokno and I have agreed that we must work to pass a budget that would be responsive to the needs of the people. We also agreed that there will be no reenacted budget,” said Nograles.
Nograles maintained the House is ready to work overtime to finish the budget hearings and approve it on plenary on time.
“We are pressed for time. Kami naman mga kongresista kung kailangang pagpuyatan, nagpupuyat naman kami. Wala namang problema sa overtime, wala naman pong problema kung kailangang pagpuyatan yan, ready naman kami. We’ve always shown to the Filipino people that when the times call for it, when we need to step up, when we need to work overtime, we do it. Ginagawa naman po namin,” said Nograles.
As to the budget hearings procedure under the 17th Congress, Nograles said there are no expected changes to it. “It would be the same process as before, which House members have been used to. It will be easier, faster, it’s more efficient that way. So no major changes in terms of procedure,” said Nograles.
He said he expects the House of Representatives to be supportive in creating and legislating a budget that will respond to the needs of fellow Filipinos.
He urged anew everyone to help each other during the entire budget process to avoid delays and a budget reenactment.
Nograles expressed optimism the 125-member Appropriations Committee will be fully organized this coming week so the panel can already start the budget hearings by Aug. 22 and pass it before the year ends.
“Hopefully by Aug. 22, we can already start our hearings on the national budget. Hopefully by that time, we’ve been fully organized in the Committee on Appropriations. We have an assurance from the House leadership that it will prioritize our committee organization because of time constraints. Time is of the essence. We do not want a reenacted budget. Priority po kami dahil priority ang budget,” said Nograles.
In submitting the budget proposal to House leaders led by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez and Nograles, Diokno is expected to highlight once again the observation that for too long, public infrastructure has been neglected.
Diokno has previously noted that as a result of this neglect, “the country’s economy is deficient in all types of infrastructure – roads and bridges, ports and airports, railways and urban transit systems, irrigation systems and water systems.” To address this, he said the government will hike infrastructure spending from a low 5% to a high of 7% of GDP.
According to him, the government plans to spend close to PHP900 billion next year for public infrastructure.
Specific infrastructure projects to be pursued by the Duterte government include small, medium and large-scale projects that will be done in all regions – both highly developed and lagging – simultaneously, not sequentially according to Diokno.
“The next six years will be The Golden Age of Philippine construction, both public and private,” said Diokno during his speech last July 20, 2016 before the Financial Executives of the Philippines’ 6th General Membership Meeting held at Fairmont Hotel.
In terms of social services, among the Duterte administration’s priorities, according to Diokno, are the following: education, with PHP118B for the construction of school buildings, which is 44% higher compared to its FY 2016 budget. The budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) will be more than half a trillion pesos; revisit the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, more popularly known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, with the intention of minimizing the leakages and minimizing the program’s administrative costs; and increase the government subsidy for health insurance premium payments for indigent families amounting to approximately PHP50B or a 15% increase over the 2016 budget.