Amid cuts in other sectors, proposed 2019 defense budget 24 pct higher

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2018 09:20 PM

Soldiers are seen pursuing a suspected Maute terrorist in Marawi City after he was sighted in the main battle area in November 2017, days after the end of hostilities. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The proposed P251.17-billion 2019 budget for the Department of National Defense (DND) amounts to an increase of P49.03 billion or a 24-percent hike from its current funding. 

This amid cuts on funding for other sectors such as education and health, some lawmakers noted Wednesday. 

ACT Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio questioned the hike in the DND's proposed budget when allocations for other agencies like the Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Public Works and Highways were reduced under the cash-based budgeting system.

Under such system, government may appropriate, bid out, complete and pay projects within a single year, a deviation from the usual obligation-based budgeting where projects may be given allocations and finished in two years. 

"Bakit tila hindi pantay ang pag-implement ng cash-based budgeting (Why does it seem like there is unequal implementation of cash-based budgeting)?" he said at a budget hearing at the House of Representatives.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attributed the increase in the proposed fund for the second tranche of the pay hike for uniformed personnel, pursuant to a joint resolution signed by President Rodrigo Duterte early this year.

"Sa (in the) budget ng (of the) DND, there are some items we recommended based on Presidential instruction... like activation ng (of) CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) and creation of additional positions," Department of Budget and Management Director Nel Arevalo added.

Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, questioned the increase in the number of CAFGU members.

AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. explained that the move seeks to address terrorism and insurgency threats, particularly in Mindanao.

Asked whether the DND is focused on internal or external security, Lorenzana said "both," but that there are more efforts on the former.

"Martial law in Mindanao is working. The feedback from citizenry is good. Kung puwede raw ituloy-tuloy na (they asked if can just keep it that way for good). But I am unsure kung ire-recommend na tuloy-tuloy ang martial law (if there will be a recommendation that martial law should just remain). It depends on the coming months," he said.

Lorenzana said ground zero in Marawi City, the site of five months of firefights between state troops and terrorists last year, is 90 percent free of explosives, and that clearing operations are expected to be completed mid-September.

Martial law remains in place over all of Mindanao despite the end of the Marawi siege.