MANILA – Malacanang on Wednesday defended the proposed increase in the Office of the President's (OP) budget, saying "needs have increased."
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella justified the planned budget increase, citing rising costs.
"Basically, the cost of running the government has increased. If you are asking for a justification, the needs have increased," he told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Abella however declined to detail the administration's needs, as he still had to check the proposed budget.
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In the administration's proposed budget, the OP's earmarked funds went up by close to P17 billion from P2.8 billion in 2016 to P20.03 billion in 2017.
In an interview Tuesday on DZMM, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said bulk of the earmarked funds—more than P15 billion—is to serve as the country's pool for its stint as host of the Association of Southeast Nations' (ASEAN) 50th anniversary.
Aside from aiming to meet high expectations from the Philippines, being one of the alliance’s founding members, the government also hopes to gain large monetary and economic returns by hosting the event, Diokno said.
He clarified that the ASEAN kitty will not be for the sole use of the OP, and it is a "special, limited time fund" only for 2017.
"Hindi naman talaga ito sa Office of the President…ibibigay natin iyan sa departments," Diokno said.
Aside from preparing for the cost of the ASEAN Golden Anniversary, other agencies' needs have been included in the budget for the OP, as they have been "folded into" the OP.
For now, while the government has yet to detail the costs that an ASEAN Golden Anniversary will incur, Abella assured the public that the government is on top of preparations.
"I'm sure the other line agencies are already attending to that," he said.
The budgets for 2017 until 2022, said Diokno in a statement, will "support the president's promise to improve the country's infrastructure, invest in human resources, modernize agriculture and rural development, and develop lagging regions."
With this in mind, the administration proposed a total budget of P3.35 trillion to Congress, 11.6 percent higher than the 2016 budget of P3.002 trillion, with a large chunk allocated for education, followed by public order and safety, then health, and defense.
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