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House to pass 2018 budget this week

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House to pass 2018 budget this week

/ 07:00 AM September 25, 2017

The House of Representatives is expected to approve on third and final reading its version of the 2018 budget law on Tuesday.

The House’s version of the General Appropriations Act saw the realignment of P40 billion for free college tuition and kept the P900-million budget for the Duterte administration’s brutal antidrug campaign.

Appropriations committee chair, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, said the House’s budget bill was already completed and currently being printed.

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“Either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how fast the printers can finish printing the physical copy of the budget,” Nograles said in a radio interview on Sunday.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters that “barring any printing technical difficulties,” the vote would be held on Tuesday “immediately following the roll call” at 4 p.m.

The biggest change introduced by the House to the P3.767-trillion budget proposal of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was the realignment of P40 billion to fund free college tuition in state institutions.

The DBM submitted the budget to Congress in late July, and President Duterte only signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act into law in early August, leaving the task for Congress to make adjustments.

Nograles said P30 billion of the budget would come from the Department of Education and another P6 billion from the Commission on Higher Education and various state universities and colleges (SUCs).

He said the funds were originally meant for scholarship programs, so “accounting-wise, we transferred those to free higher education because SUCs will benefit just the same.”

Another P3 billion was sourced from two bus rapid transit system projects of the Department of Transportation—along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue and Quezon Avenue—which were “not yet ripe” for implementation in 2018.

“They only needed funds for engineering and design. So, we left a bit [of the funds]. We got the bulk to bring to free higher education,” Nograles said.

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The remaining P1 billion came from the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s budget.

Nograles also said internal adjustments were made to the budgets of SUCs to provide more capital outlay or funds for the construction of facilities.

However, despite the call of various sectors to undo the budget cuts for the maintenance and other operating expenses of government hospitals, Nograles said the budget was not changed, citing the DBM’s expectation that they were “already income-generating.”

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TAGS: 17th Congress, 2018 national budget, Karlo Alexei Nograles, Rodolfo Fariñas
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