MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III has signed the P1.645-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2011 in the presence of lawmakers led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon and House appropriations committee chair Joseph Emilio Abaya.
The president noted that this is the first time in 11 years that the GAA is being enacted in the same year that it was submitted to Congress. The president particularly thanked the lawmakers for retaining funds for the conditional cash transfer program.
“We now have the means to fulfill our people’s aspirations for a government that pursues national development along transparent, accountable lines, and with maximum efficiency. This budget demonstrates our commitment to solving the problems of our people at the soonest time. This alleviates the burdens especially of the most disadvantaged,” President Aquino said in a speech after signing the GAA in Malacanang.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad said that no appropriation item will be vetoed by the President. But 13 general and special provisions of the budget will be vetoed. Abad said 26 items would be subject to “conditional implementation,” “which is really a clarification on how they should be implemented.”
“We also had general observations on certain portions of the budget which is really expressing the executive’s view on some provisions which may later on be subject to clarification or controversy, hopefully not,” Abad told reporters.
The President will also veto the provision limiting government’s borrowing to 55 percent of the GDP.
“For example, the first item that was subjected to direct veto was the provision limiting the ability of the executive to enter into debt agreements which the said vetoed provision limits it to 55 percent [of GDP]. The present national debt obligation of the government as a percentage of GDP is already at the level of 57 percent, so limiting or pegging the ability of the government to borrow at 55 percent, realistically speaking, is not possible,” Abad said.
Abad said it is better to have “flexibility” in the government’s liability management program in light of the strong peso and low interest rates.
Abad denies there is P1.2-billion confidential fund allotted for the Office of the President. “There’s no such a thing. I’m not aware of that,” he said.