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Senate starts 2020 budget deliberations

/ 04:32 AM November 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to begin plenary deliberations on Tuesday on the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 budget that puts emphasis on health, education and social services, according to Sen. Sonny Angara, the finance committee chair.

Angara, who sponsored the budget bill on Monday, said his committee’s version increased funds for the repair of earthquake-damaged schools, school vouchers, free college education, school feeding, help for indigent patients and the deployment of nurses and doctors to impoverished areas.

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These amendments were the result of bipartisan consensus, Angara said.

“We believe this budget will help bring us closer to becoming an upper middle-income country by 2022, where human development is high and growth is more inclusive as manifested in a lower poverty incidence in rural areas and in a lower overall unemployment rate,” he said in his sponsorship speech.

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Some P1.25 trillion of the budget consists of automatic appropriations while the rest are new appropriations.

Of the new appropriations, 17.3 percent would be spent on education, culture and manpower development, while 15.4 percent would go to improve communications, roads and other forms of transportation.

Another 9 percent would be for social security and welfare, 7.4 percent for public order and safety, and 4.8 percent for domestic security.

DepEd budget up by P6.2B

The Senate panel increased the Department of Education’s (DepEd) budget by P6.2 billion to fund vouchers for senior high school students studying in private schools, so that they would not have to drop out, Angara said.

The increase would also be used to provide equipment, facilities and other teaching needs of so-called “last mile schools,” or those in remote places, as well as the conservation of heritage school buildings, he said.

The Senate committee also increased by P8.5 billion the funds for Student Financial Assistance Program under the Commission on Higher Education. The same amount was added for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

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Research grants for state universities and colleges were increased to P116 million, and another P167 million was set aside for cash grants for medical scholars in state universities and colleges.

The Senate committee also allocated P7 billion to prevent the mass layoff of nurses, doctors, midwives and other health professionals deployed to “underdeveloped and unserved” areas, Angara said.

There is also a P9.439 billion fund for poor patients in public and private hospitals, he said.

Angara said the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, would get P108.7 billion.

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