The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 on third and final reading.
With 223 votes in the affirmative, 9 in the negative, the House approved House Bill 6215 or the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
In a statement, House Appropriations Committee chair and Davao City First District Representative Karlo Nograles said that “most of the adjustments made on the GAB was a result of a painstaking scrutiny on the spending pattern and the absorptive capacity of each government agency.”
“We have considered at least two major factors in making our adjustments. One is urgency and another is capacity. We carved out budgets depending on the urgency of certain projects and programs that require allocation and depending on the capacity of implementing agencies to really put their funds to good use,” Nograles added.
The GAB includes over P40-billion to fund a recently-approved law which will provide free tuition to students of public universities, colleges, and technical-vocational institutions.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier has signed into law the Free Higher Education Bill or the Republic Act 10931, also known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
This law benefits students from 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 16 local universities and colleges accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and 122 technical-vocational institutions under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
According to Nograles, the Department of Education (DepEd) was one of the agencies that suffered the biggest cut, with at least P30-billion deducted from its school building program. From its original allocation of P122.96-billion, the 30-billion was taken out from its share due to “lack of buildable spaces and problems in school sites, among others.”
The Appropriations Committee chair stated that they just basically transferred part of the fund from primary education to higher education. He added that it is still all about improving the country’s educational system.
“We will still be leaving DepEd with P92.96 billion for construction of new classrooms and school buildings and repairs for old ones. This is enough for them to fulfill their mandate, considering that DepEd is faced with challenges like lack of buildable spaces and problems in school sites on where to construct additional school buildings,” he said.
Nograles stressed that education sector still had the biggest portion in the proposed budget, with P583.1-billion budget going to DepEd, P61.6-billion going to SUCs, P49.9-billion to CHEd, and P6.9-billion going to TESDA.
Aside from the education sector, the following departments are also getting the biggest budgets in 2018: Department of Public Works and Highways (P639.8-billion), Department of the Interior and Local Government (P172.3-billion), Department of Health (P164.5-billion), Department of National Defense (P145-billion), Department of Social Welfare Development (P137.1-billion), Department of Transportation (P67.9-billion), Department of Agriculture (P54.2-billion), the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (P33.5-billion), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (P27.9-billion).
Meanwhile, the proposed 2018 national budget will undergo further deliberation at the Senate.