As President Rodrigo Duterte signed the P3.35-trillion national budget 2017 on Thursday, analysts are calling attention to the slashing of the country's calamity fund by more than half.
In an interview with "Mornings at ANC," the group Social Watch Philippines (SWP) pointed out the Duterte administration is only allocating P15.7 billion for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Fund also known as the Calamity Fund.
This is a P23-billion decrease from P38.9 billion in 2016 under the Aquino administration.
Similarly, the budget for the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) was cut from P1 billion in 2016 to P481 million in 2017. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council operates under the OCD.
"One thing that surprised us is the budget for disaster. We had experiences of the wild weather events and when you talk of the future of the Philippines, that's a future of disasters so we really need to prepare for that and budget for that," said SWP co-convenor Isagani Serrano.
In 2016 alone, 26 storms and 12 typhoons ravaged the country.
"We need to know from government exactly why the big drop in the NDRRMC budget," said Serrano.
"Could we assume that the preparation part of the budget, not just the quick response, is lodged in the agencies? That is something that the government needs to answer," he added.
OTHER LOSERS, GAINERS
Aside from the disaster funds, the administration is also cutting spending on building hospitals by P9 billion and socialized housing by P11 billion.
University of the Philippines professor and SWP fellow Jocelyn Cuaresma said the housing budget went down because the administration did not include the subsidy for Yolanda victims, which had been addressed in previous budgets.
But she said housing projects for the victims, who were displaced after Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) battered the country in 2013, have not all been implemented.
"(The government) should continue supporting housing for the poor, calamity victims or not," added Cuaresma.
Serrano, however, said the government's decision to cut spending on building health facilities is understandable because it is focusing on "primary defense."
He said there were increases in preventive health (up by P5 billion), welfare and social protection program (P19 billion), Conditional Cash Transfer program (P16 billion) and social pension for indigent groups (P9 billion).
"How long we can sustain that is the big issue," he said.
But both analysts lauded the administration's focus on social services, specifically education.
The Department of Education topped the government agencies with the biggest budget of P544 billion. It is followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (P454 billion), Department of Interior and Local Government (P148 billion), and Department of National Defense (P137 billion).
The Commission on Higher Education also earlier announced that P8.3 billion will be used to offset tuition in state colleges and universities.
Another big gainer is the Office of the President, whose budget for 2017 is P20 billion, a P17-billion jump from 2016.
Around P15 billion of the amount will be distributed to government agencies that will be involved in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which will also mark the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary, according to Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno.
But hopefully, the government will not move money from agency to agency without proper appropriation, said Cuaresma.