Congress urged not to revise Duterte budget

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2016 03:10 PM

The House of Representatives has been asked to approve President Rodrigo Duterte's first budget without any amendments.

This is contained in Committee Report 02 attached to House Bill 3408, which was sponsored in plenary today.

The bill aims to accelerate annual infrastructure spending to 5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to provide a reliable transport network; maintain peace and order within the country; invest in human capital development; provide ample social protection and sustainable livelihood; increase agricultural and rural enterprise; ensure sustained efficient macroeconomic management.

The budget assumes a GDP growth rate of 6-7% and is expected to accelerate further to 6.5 to 7.5% in 2017. 

The proposed budget is also formulated and consistent with the following macroeconomic assumptions: 

-inflation rate of 2-5% in 2017, same level as 2016; 
-365-day T-bill rates of 2-4% and 2.5-4% for 2016 and 2017; 
-and, foreign exchange rate of P45-48 to US $1.

The budget is also formulated based on the following fiscal program:

-total revenues of P2.481 trillion in 2017 which translates to 15.6% of GDP and is higher by 10% from the 2016 revenue program of P2.56 trillion; 
-consolidated public sector deficit of P310.7 billion or 1.9% of GDP; national government budget deficit of P478.1B or 3% of GDP; and outstanding national government debt of P6.5 trillion or a debt to GDP ratio of 40.9% by end of 2017.

The bill authorizes the congressional enactment of funds amounting to P2.499 trillion, consisting of P2.432 trillion of programmed appropriations and P67.5 billion of unprogrammed appropriations as the standby fund, which may only be utilized when revenue collections in any one of the identified revenue sources exceed targets per budget of expenditures and sources of financing or when new foreign loans and grants are received.

It also authorizes the use of P918 billion which are deemed automatically appropriated as these were previously authorized under pertinent laws and therefore outside the purview of the bill, 

From August 22 to September 14, the appropriations committee conducted at least 33 hearings on the budget proposals of the different departments, their attached agencies and corporations, constitutional offices, the judiciary and other government offices. 

The committee also held 15 pre-plenary conferences from September 14 to 22, and will conduct seven more pre-plenary conferences this week.

Based on the House schedule, the plenary budget deliberations will be conducted starting Monday until October 7, when the period of amendments has been set.

In his sponsorship speech, Davao 1st District Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles stressed that "the 2017 national budget embodies the commitment of the House to support President Duterte's agenda for real change."

"The 2017 national budget is the embodiment of the administration's program of government and how we intend to achieve it. It is the vessel of our noblest aspirations for our people, for a better society where opportunities for advancement are abundant and not for the privileged few but accessible to every Filipino," he said.

Nograles further said the proposed budget aims to "ensure that our limited resources are maximized towards making our government work better for our people most especially for those in the countryside." 

"It is a budget that aims to deliver better services beyond the urban centers all the way to the rural areas. It is a budget that ensures that the poor are enabled to engage in and benefit from the processes and fruits of growth." 

"It is a budget that restores the full measure of the people's freedoms - the freedom from fear, freedom from want, the freedom to build their own lives in society enriched by a deep sense of community and patriotic fidelity," he added.

In his budget message to lawmakers, President Duterte urged them to scrutinize the budget and approve it.

"More than being a collection of figures and provisions, the proposed 2017 national budget is the embodiment of our people's clamor for real change and a compassionate government," the President said. 

The President said his commitment to implement real change lies at the core of the proposed budget.

"This is my administration's first budget. It is a budget that gives flesh and bone to the promise by which I won as President, which is to fight for social justice. It was designed to realize change in the here and now. This budget is for the people and by the people," said Duterte.

The proposed budget is 11.6% higher than the current year's budget of P3.002 trillion. It is 20.4 percent of the GDP compared to this year's 20.1 percent of GDP, according to the DBM. 

The top 10 agencies in terms of budgetary allocations are: 
- Department of Education (DepEd), P567.5 billion; 
- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), P458.6 billion; 
- Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), P150 billion; 
- Department of National Defense (DND), P134.5 billion; 
- Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P129.9 billion; 
- Department of Health (DOH), P94 billion; 
- State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), P58.8 billion; 
- Department of Transportation (DOTr), P55.4 billion; 
- Department of Agriculture (DA), P45.2 billion; and 
- Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), P41.7 billion.

During the budget submission last month by the Department of Budget and Managament to House leaders led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Secretary Benjamin Diokno dubbed the proposed budget as "A Budget for Real Change," as it focuses resources on programs and projects that will achieve the Duterte administration's 10-point socioeconomic development agenda.

Of the P3.35 trillion national budget, Diokno said: 

- 40 percent will be for empowering human resources through education, healthcare, social welfare and other social services; 
- 27.6 percent for economic services to fix the broken infrastructure network, boost agricultural and rural sector, and generate more jobs and livelihood; and 
- 22 percent for general public services and defense. 

The breakdown of allocations for the 10-point socioeconomic development agenda of the Duterte administration according to Diokno is as follows:

- infrastructure: P860.7 billion which is 13.8 percent higher than this year's budget; 
- rule of law: P119.4 billion for the Philippine National Police (PNP) which is 24.6 percent higher than this year, P130.6 billion for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to support the administration's drive against crime, illegal drugs and terrorism, and P32.5 billion to declog the courts; 
- agriculture and agrarian reform: P120.5 billion; 
- technology and innovation: P3.56 billion for the Department of Information and Communications (DICT) and P20.8 billion for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); 
- education: P699.95 billion; 
- health: P151.5 billion; 
- social welfare and sustainable livelihood: P129.9 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and P13.5 billion for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE);
- energy: P5.6 billion for electrification; 
- and disaster risk reduction and environmental protection: P37.3 billion for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) and P29.4 billion for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).