MANILA (UPDATED) - The Senate has ratified the P3.7-trillion national budget for 2018 as proposed by the bicameral conference committee.
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 the 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.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said in a statement that the 2018 budget will be "instrumental" in making sure that the Philippines maintains its status as one of Asia's fastest growing economies.
Legarda said government is facing the challenge of translating the country's economic gains into programs beneficial to the people, especially the poor.
She said the budget gives priority to "education, healthcare, livelihood, shelter and sustainable growth."
"It provides for free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), support for farmers, increase in teachers’ allowance and base pay of military and uniformed personnel, and the rehabilitation of Marawi City, among others," Legarda said.
Legarda said the 2018 national budget includes the following:
- The 2018 budget will continue funding Universal Healthcare Program under PhilHealth.
- The Department of Health's budget has been increased to provide additional funding for Medical Assistance Program for indigent patients, additional medicine for cancer patients and Health Facilities Enhancement Program, among others. A special provision was also included to prohibit the purchase of Dengue vaccines.
- DSWD received a P2.080 billion budget for the rehabilitation of social welfare and activity centers and Bahay Pagasa juvenile detentions.
- P1.647 billion has been allocated for the unpaid pension the government owes surviving spouses of World War II veterans.
- Department of Trade and Industry received P800 million to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
- The Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines received P60 billion for the increase of base pay of military and uniformed personnel and P1.35 billion for their respective housing programs.
- The DILG budget has allotted P334 million for the acquisition of body cameras of police officers, P100 million for closed circuit television (CCTV), P451 million for the purchase of two helicopters, and P70 million additional funding for the Internal Affairs Service.
- The Bureau of Corrections received an additional P300 million for additional prison facilities.
- The Department of Finance meanwhile allocated P1.493 billion for the purchase of x-ray machines.
- The Commission on Human Rights will receive an additional operating budget.
- The Department of Foreign Affairs' budget received an increase of P783 million for additional funding of existing consular offices and embassies, opening of new consulates, cultural diplomacy programs, training programs, and hazard pay of DFA employees in hardship posts, among others.
--Report from Sherrie Ann Torres and Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News