House ratifies P3.7-trillion 2018 budget

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2017 10:24 PM

Congress has passed the P3.7-trillion national 2018 budget, paving the way for its transmittal to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.

The House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report that reconciled the clashing provisions of the Senate and House versions of the government's proposed national budget for 2018.

The ratification came moments after the Senate also ratified the bicameral report in a separate session.

"President Rodrigo Duterte can proudly affix his signature to this measure on December 19 following its ratification," House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles said, referring to their self-imposed deadline for the signing of the 2018 national budget.

Of the total amount, the Department of Education received the largest allocation with P553.3 billion.

Among those with the highest budget allocations are: the Department of Interior and Local Government with P170.8 billion, the Department of National Defense with P149.7 billion, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with P141.8 billion.

The 2018 budget will also ensure the implementation of free wifi for all SUCs amounting to P327 million.

Lawmakers set aside an additional P62 billion for the increase of military and uniformed personnel's (MUP) base pay beginning January 1, 2018. House Joint Resolution (HJR) 18, which bears this effect, was approved on 3rd and final reading on Monday.

"This will double the basic pay of both the Police Officer 1 and Private from P14,834 per month to P29,668 per month. The funding requirement for this is already included in the 2018 General Appropriations Bill," Nograles said.

Also provided for in the Bicam-approved General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is the purchase of body cameras for Philippine National Police (PNP) members amounting to P334 million (up from the initial allocation of P100 million); acquisition of two single-engine helicopters with a funding of P451 million; housing for PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) members worth P952 million (up from the realigned P900 million OPLAN Double Barrel fund); and the increase of police stations' funds by adding P850 million to their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).

Also noteworthy according to Nograles is the P3.5-billion subsidization under the PhilHealth budget for the cost of healthcare benefits of government employees in the executive branch.

"This will cover health care for preventive and curative, in-patient and out-patient services for employees in the executive branch. The health benefits shall be provided to our government employees through PhilHealth-registered healthcare providers," he said.