Ratified budget gives biggest boost to infra, health projects
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Health (DOH) bagged the biggest increases on top of their proposed budgets among government agencies in the P3.8-trillion 2019 spending bill, according to figures from Senate finance committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda.
Legarda, citing the highlights of the conference committee report on Friday, said the DPWH got a net increase of P32.923 billion and the DOH P21.52 billion.
The Senate and the House of Representatives on Friday ratified the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2019, which would continue to support the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
No figures for the total budget of each government agency in the spending measure were available as of Saturday.
Legarda said the DPWH’s allocations for right-of-way settlements and foreign-assisted projects were cut, but its budget increased overall due to funds set aside for local infrastructure projects.
The Senate had pushed for an additional P15 billion to build and equip health centers as part of the DOH program to enhance its health facilities. It added P4.78 billion to complete the funding for new personnel.
For indigents, cancer meds
Lawmakers also increased the funding to assist indigent patients and to purchase medicines for cancer patients.
The “special purpose funds” in the spending bill was slashed by P70.67 billion, Legarda said. The reduction included P7.227 billion in allocations to local governments and in miscellaneous personnel benefits.
The Department of Education had a net increase of P2.521 billion, which includes P800 million for teachers’ allowance on World Teachers’ Day.
The additional funding would also go to teacher development and computerization programs, textbooks and other instructional materials and the school-based feeding program.
Increase for SUCs, DSWD
State universities and colleges (SUCs) would get a P2.813-billion increase to fund capital outlays for several schools, including the University of the Philippines.
Also given an increase was the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which will get P3.158 billion.
These additional social welfare allotments would be used for protective services and the implementation of the enhanced program for children, families, indigenous peoples and individuals in difficult situations.
About one-third, or P1 billion, would be used for Bahay Pag-asa centers under the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council for children in conflict with the law.
Additional P3B for DND
The Department of National Defense (DND) got an additional P3.098 billion, which would fund the Task Force and Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program for the rebel/insurgent returnees, veterans’ hospitalization and medical care and the purchase of medicine and medical supplies for Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
Some of that money would be spent for allowances of government-armed militiamen under the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and a new Maritime Command in Tawi-Tawi province.
The budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) was raised by P2.612 billion for the emergency repatriation of overseas Filipino workers, the employment facilitation program and the government internship program.
A P2.191-billion increase went to the judiciary to fund the construction of new halls of justice and new buildings for the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Appeals.
New Senate building
Congress’ budget was increased by P1.775 billion to fund the construction of a new Senate building and additional operating requirements of the Senate and the Commission on Appointments.
Other executive offices got a net increase of P8.112 billion to fund, among others, additional intelligence and confidential funds for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the National Security Council, and the operation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs.
The Department of Agriculture’s budget was slashed by P2.046 billion due to the reduction in allocations for farm-to-market roads and for credit facilities of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council.
But Legarda said this would be partially offset by the P10 million provided for the young farmers program and P50 million for the livestock production program, as well as the construction of fish landings, fisherman’s wharf, and the purchase of fishing gears under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
DOTr budget cut
In addition, P185 million was set aside for the establishment of Carabao Dairy Centers in various provinces.
The budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) also was reduced by P4.812 billion due to cuts in right-of-way funding, but selected air and sea ports, and the purchase of helicopters and lighted ocean buoys got additional allotments.
About P6.855 billion also was sliced off the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget due largely to the transfer of the funds for the Southeast Asian Games from the DFA to the Philippine Sports Commission.
But Congress provided funds for the opening of consular offices within the country, as well as embassies in Melbourne, Barcelona, Nagoya, Morocco, Stockholm and Turkey, including augmentation of the operating requirements of selected embassies.
The proposed 2019 budget also has a specific provision prohibiting the Bureau of Immigration from issuing temporary work permits to foreigners unless they present an alien employment permit or a similar certification from the Dole.
It also states that before the Dole issues this certification, it must determine that no Filipino is able and willing to do the same work at the time of application.
Another provision prohibits the use of unprogrammed funds for any project for public video surveillance and communication systems that will put the country’s national security at risk.
The general provisions also clarifies that the block grant to the Bangsamoro government will be automatically appropriated.