Senate, House ratify 2012 budget

by Ryan Chua and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2011 08:24 PM | Updated as of Nov 30 2011 06:26 PM

Education, social services get bulk of funds

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate and the House of Representatives have ratified the country's proposed budget of P1.816 trillion for 2012.

Senators approve the budget Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the bicameral conference committee released its report.

The President is expected to enact the budget into law on December 15. It will be the second time in 11 years that the budget will be approved before the year when it will be spent.

More funding

In the bicameral conference committee's report presented by Senate finance committee chair Franklin Drilon, some agencies and branches of government's allocations were increased:

- P351 million for the House of Representatives for personal services
- P96.69 million for the Senate for the operational requirements of the 5th global conference of the Global Parliamentarians Against Corruption, and for the repair and construction of conference rooms
- restoration of P500 million to the Department of Agriculture for irrigation projects
- P100 million as initial funding for newly-created Governance Commission for Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations
- P36 million for the Philippine National Police for its Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operation Task Force, which will be sourced from the budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
- P30 million for the Department of National Defense for the payment of a property of the Philippine Navy in Puerto Princesa City, and,
- P25 million for the reconstruction and renovation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' General Headquarters and buildings at the Philippine Military Academy.

Budget cuts

The budget for other offices were reduced:

- P697.83 million from the President's miscellaneous personnel benefit fund
- P138.3 million from the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) fund
- P224 million from the Department of Health, which was deemed an excess in the fund for senior citizens' vaccines
- P100 million from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
- P91 million from the Department of Labor an Employment, which was supposed to be for the operation of Filipino centers abroad (Sen. Drilon said money from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration fund can be used for this)

Realignments

Amounts from some agencies, meanwhile, were realigned or transferred to other items in the budget:

- P1 billion from the Department of Education's capital outlay to the maintenance and other operating expenses of the kindergarten program and for hiring additional teachers
- P1.9 billion from the budgets of the Departments of Agrarian Reform, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process for the Pamana program
- P700 million from the Department of the Interior and Local Government to the Local Water Utilities Administration for potable water supply for third-level water systems
- P440.6 million from the judiciary for unorganized courts

The Senate and the House also agreed to remove the restrictions on the use of funds for unfilled positions by Congress, the judiciary, and constitutional agencies, which all enjoy fiscal autonomy.

However, they are required to submit to the President a quarterly report on how the funds are spent.

"We believe that this compromise can stand constitutional scrutiny because the heads of these agencies can realign whatever savings can be realized from the unfilled positions," Drilon said.

Funds for vacant positions were placed in the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund in the original version of the budget, but various agencies objected to it.

Education, social services

The Department of Education will get the biggest slice of P238.8 billion or 15.2% higher than the current budget of P207.3 billion.

The Public Works Department is second with P125.5 billion, followed by the National Defense with P107.9 billion, the Interior and Local Government with P101.4 billion, and the Department of Agriculture with P54.1 billion.

Social Services will get the bulk of the spending pie with P575.8 billion or 31.7% of the entire GAA.

Economic services is at second with P438.9 billion (24.2% of GAA) which shows the largest growth of 21.3%.

Debt service comes third with P356.1 billion, general public services with P332.1 billion, and defense at P113.1 billion.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman cast a dissenting vote, saying "the appropriations for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are inordinately overstated and excessively funded."

He said the amount earmarked for CCT and PPPs should be instead augment appropriations for education, state colleges and universities, health, and infrastructure.