Aquino signs P2-T ‘empowering nat’l budget’

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01:01 AM December 20th, 2012

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December 20th, 2012 01:01 AM

President Benigno Aquino III. AP PHOTO

Exuberant over congressional approval of two bills despite fierce opposition from some sectors, President Aquino on Wednesday called the General Appropriations Act of 2013 an “empowerment budget.”

The President himself indicated to senators and members of the House of Representatives that he expected both the reproductive health (RH) and the sin tax measures on his table before Dec. 31 for his signature.

A beaming President Aquino signed the P2.006-trillion national budget for the coming year that includes allocation for the RH bill that he hoped to sign into law before the year ends.

The budget consists of new general appropriations of P1.250 trillion and automatic appropriations of P755 billion.

Education, health, agriculture and a cash-transfer scheme for the poor are the key priorities of the appropriations, which are 10.5-percent higher than the 2012 national budget, the President said during the signing ceremony.

“We designed this budget as an instrument to give the common man the power to control and improve his life,” Mr. Aquino said. The budget sets aside P44.2 billion for “conditional cash transfer,” up 12 percent from this year.

Budget for RH

Strategic Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said the allocation for the RH measure had been incorporated in the budget of the Department of Budget and Management.

“We’ve been actually allocating money for that since we came in. What the RH law does is it’s not going to make it a matter of policy; it’s going to make it a matter of law,” Carandang later told reporters, but could not specify the amount.

The proposed RH law provides free services and supplies to the poor, and health and sexuality education to students, and offers a full range of modern family planning methods.

The budget measure, adopted without any line being vetoed, includes an P8-billion allocation for projects proposed by local government units.

“We designed this budget as an instrument to bring back to the people the power to determine their own fate,” the President told  lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senators Franklin Drilon and Edgardo Angara, Cabinet officials, business executives and guests.

The Senate and the House separately ratified the General Appropriations Act on Dec. 5.

The budget is broken down into P640.18 billion (personal services), P1.040 trillion (maintenance and other operating expenditures or MOOE) and P325.50 billion (capital outlay).

Interest payments, IRA

The MOOE is divided into P333.90 billion (interest payments), P302.30 billion (Internal Revenue Allotment) and P404.02 billion (regular MOOE requirement).

Congress has a total budget of P10.4 billion, broken down into Senate’s P3.2 billion, and House of Representatives’ P6.3 billion.

The Office of the President has a budget of P2.7 billion; the Office of the Vice President, P416 million.

P232.6B for DepEd

The lion’s share of the budget would go to social services, with the Department of Education (DepEd) getting P232.6 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P56.3 billion; and Department of Health, P51.1 billion, according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Economic development would be backstopped by the P325.5-billion capital outlay, up by 17.3 percent from this year’s budget, and the infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways, which is allotted P155.5 billion, Abad said.

The Department of Agrarian Reform has an allocation of P21 billion; Department of Agriculture, P64.4 billion; DBM, P962 million; state colleges and universities, P32 billion; Department of Energy, P3.2 billion; Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P23.1 billion; Department of Finance, P11.7 billion; Department of Foreign Affairs, P11.6 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P91.1 billion; Department of Justice, P10.1 billion; Department of Labor and Employment, P7.8 billion; Department of National Defense, P80 billion;

Department of Science and Technology, P9.9 billion; Department of Tourism, P2.7 billion, and Department of Trade and Industry, P3.5 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications, P34 billion.

Budgetary support to government corporations, P44.6 billion; allocations to LGUs, P17.5 billion; Calamity Fund, P7.5 billion;  DepEd Schoolbuilding Program, P1 billion; E-Government Fund, P1 billion; Pension and Gratuity Fund, P98.7 billion; and Priority Development Assistance Fund, P24.7 billion.

P44.2B for cash transfer

Abad said the budget law included P44.2 billion for conditional cash transfer.

The three-year-old scheme gives up to P1,400 a month to the poorest families who meet certain criteria, like keeping their children in school and bringing them, as well as pregnant family members, regularly to  government health clinics.

Government officials said this gives their children a better opportunity to get  out of destitution.

More than 26 percent of the country’s population of about 100 million are deemed by the government to be living in poverty.

 

Bottom-up budgeting

In his speech, the President made special mention of the P8.4-billion allocation for projects proposed by local officials in the countryside.

“We started the process for bottom-up budgeting where 595 of the poorest municipalities linked arms with their communities to identify the projects and programs that should be included in the budget. Because of this new process, some P8.4-billion programs and projects from the municipalities and communities are included in the 2013 national budget,” he said.

Because of the ban on infrastructure spending by local government units in connection with May elections, the government would roll out a substantial portion of the budget in the first half to jump-start projects, including the Public Private Partnership program, Abad said.

“We’re also anticipating feverish spending for the May 2013 elections during that period. All in all, this spells robust growth for us in the first semester, further supporting the economic upswing we’ve sustained over the last 12 months,” Abad said.

Five principles

The President said five principles governed the crafting of the budget measure: deepening the social contract with Filipinos; fast-tracking the implementation of priority programs; strengthening accountability of public institutions; empowerment; and designing the budget with the people.

“This day, we’re not only enacting into law every peso that the government will spend in 2013. More than the numbers and the legal provisions in this thick book that we signed earlier, we believe that the national budget includes the Filipino people’s desires,” he said.

“Through this budget, we want to prove that we’re in power not to focus on our personal interest, but to ensure that the doors of opportunities are opening to our countrymen, especially those in the fringes of society,” he added.

The President acknowledged Belmonte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was conspicuously absent, for the passage of the national budget while tackling equally crucial pieces of legislation such as the RH bill and sin tax measure.

“Of course, I expect these bills to land on my table for signing at the soonest possible time, preferably this year,” he said, drawing chuckles. With a report from AFP

Originally posted at 2:22 pm | Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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