MANILA, Philippines - A new budget program presumably bereft of pork barrel allocations or elements of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is set to be submitted today by Malacanang to the House of Representatives.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad presents the P2.6-trillion budget program for 2015 to Congress at 3 p.m. on behalf of President Aquino.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, will lead House officials in receiving Aquino’s budget proposal, his budget message and other accompanying documents.
The President traditionally submits his budget program a day after the SONA, but yesterday was a holiday marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, Ungab explained.
He said deliberations on the budget would take into account the recent Supreme Court rulings declaring both the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Program (PDAF), the congressional pork barrel, as unconstitutional.
Belmonte said the House and the Senate should be able to come up with a “better budget” in the wake of the DAP and PDAF rulings.
Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora suggested that the flaws in the implementation of DAP could be corrected by “more careful language” in the crafting of the budget, or by clearer definition of government savings.
Under the Constitution, the budget emanates from the House of Representatives. Though the Senate can conduct committee hearings simultaneously with the House, it has to await House approval of the spending measure before it can tackle the program in plenary session.
Through the proposed budget program, Abad said the government would try to attain inclusive growth through such programs as cash transfers to the poor, K to 12 basic education, universal healthcare and housing for squatters.
Despite last year’s succession of calamities, he said the government remains optimistic that it would attain its economic targets.
Next year’s planned budget is P341 billion more than this year’s P2.265-trillion spending level.
The administration hopes to fund it with revenues projected to reach P2.337 trillion, leaving a gap of P285.3 billion, which would be filled through borrowings.
It expects the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to improve their collection efficiency.
Next year’s P2.337-trillion revenue target is P319 billion more than this year’s projected collections of P2.018 trillion.
The proposed budget assumes a gross national product growth of seven to eight percent, a gross domestic product expansion of 7.5 to 8.5 percent, an inflation rate of two to four percent, a peso-dollar exchange rate of P41-P44 to one dollar and crude price of $90-$110 per barrel.
Belmonte has assured Malacañang that the House would act expeditiously on the budget proposal.
He said the administration should be credited for consistently presenting the budget early enough to allow for its approval before yearend and avoid the reenactment of the previous year’s outlay.
Gonzales also said President Aquino was not defying the Supreme Court when he asked Congress on Monday for a supplemental budget to continue projects stalled by the SC ruling.
“Maybe, some will see it (supplemental budget) as skirting the SC ruling but that (request) is within the law because remember, the DAP was questioned for funding new projects that we (Congress) did not know about, so this is necessary,” Gonzales said.
“Anyway, the SC said this is an operative fact, meaning it recognized that the projects being implemented prior to its (DAP) being declared unconstitutional cannot be disregarded,” he said.
He said Malacañang’s request for a supplemental budget should include a detailed list of projects to be funded and accompanied by a certification from the National Treasurer that funds are available.
He said the DBM should be careful in crafting the supplement budget as the Aquino administration continues to be questioned on how and on what basis it generated “savings” to create the DAP.
“Which projects did they discontinue for the DAP? Did they slow down hiring? These are the questions people always ask and I’m sure the DBM can easily answer these,” Gonzales said.
Ungab said Aquino’s request for a supplemental budget “is in accordance with law and clearly prompted by its intention to better serve the interest and welfare of the public.”
“The House of Representative is ready to take on this task, noting the necessity of the same, and guided by the law, Constitution and SC rulings on the matter,” Ungab said.
“We expect to receive it soon. Once received, expect that Congress will immediately respond and act on the executive branch’s proposed supplemental budget for the projects left hanging by DAP’s non-implementation,” he said. – Paolo Romero and Delon Porcalla