MANILA, Philippines - Even the Office of the Vice President (OVP) will have to live frugally next year.
Malacañang has cut its proposed budget to P177 million from P195 million.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said this is an affront to a constitutional office such as the OVP. It is even the second highest office in the country, he added.
The budget is only enough to cover employees’ salaries and office rent, excluding services to the public. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III earlier allowed the office to transfer to the Coconut Palace in Pasay City from the Philippine National Bank Financial Center.
The Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT), which is under the Office of the President (OP), even got a bigger piece of the pie, he said.
The proposed budget for CICT is P1.2 billion.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Franklin Drilon said they will review the proposed budget the Palace had submitted.
Aquino’s ally, however, denied the budget cut was politically motivated.
In fact, Drilon said the Senate also questioned the budget of several offices under the OP, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission. Several of the commission’s work can already be handled by several offices, such as the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense.
The National Telecommunications Office, on the other hand, has a budget of P1 billion even if its services are not being used by the government.
The senators also questioned Malacañang’s intelligence and confidential funds, which are not subject to a review by the Commission on Audit.
Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, Jr. however defended the P400 million fund, saying it was even reduced from P600 million previously.
In total, the Office of the President has a P4.075 billion budget, lower than the P4.2 billion of the previous administration, he said.
About 42% of the proposed budget has been earmarked for Aquino, he said.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, on the other hand, will get P235 million, more than double from the previous budget.
The Truth Commission, on the other hand, has a proposed budget of P83 million.
The thrust of the Aquino administration is focused on these 2.
Ochoa said 10 offices were not given any budget for 2011 since these would soon be abolished.
These are: Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO), Office of North Luzon Quadrangle Area, Office of External Affairs, Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, Minerals Development Council, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, Luzon Urban Beltway Super Region, Bicol River Basin Watershed Management Office, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change, and Office of the Presidential Adviser for New Government Centers. – from a report by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News