Infra, education budgets get big cuts
MANILA, Philippines — The budgets for education and infrastructure have been slashed as the government scrambled for funds for dole-outs and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the country, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data showed.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to realign budget items.
As of end of April, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) suffered the biggest cut of P121.9 billion, reducing its 2020 budget to P458.9 billion from P580.9 billion previously.
The huge cut in the DPWH’s budget seemed out of sync with the economic team’s plan to ramp up infrastructure spending to enable the economy, which declined by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, to quickly recover.
Economic managers had said that one way to post a “V-shaped” recovery would be through the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, which the government was currently reviewing.
The Department of Education’s budget was reduced by a hefty P21.9 billion to P499.5 billion, followed by the Commission on Higher Education’s — cut by P13.9 billion to P32.9 billion.
Budgets for state universities and colleges sustained a P7.6-billion reduction in their 2020 allotments to a smaller P66.1 billion.
These budget cuts on education agencies and institutions came at a time when public schools needed to adjust to online means of learning amid a “new normal” of social distancing before classes start in August.
The DBM data as of April showed the following agencies also had their budgets slashed: Department of Agriculture (P11.7 billion); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (P68.7 million); Department of Foreign Affairs (P378.8 million); Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (P250.5 million); Department of Information and Communications Technology (P6.2 billion); Department of the Interior and Local Government (P3.1 billion); Department of Justice (P78.6 million); Department of National Defense (P6.7 billion); Department of Tourism (P824.4 million); Department of Trade and Industry (P4.1 billion); Department of Transportation (P8.8 billion); National Economic and Development Authority (P484.3 million); Presidential Communications Operations Office (P25 million); and Commission on Human Rights (P37 million).
In all, government departments suffered a net cut of P5.3 billion in their budgets.
However, four agencies in the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 saw bigger 2020 allocations, namely: Department of Finance, with an additional P35.3 billion to P53.8 billion; Department of Health, plus P1.9 billion to P102.9 billion; Department of Labor and Employment, P1.5 billion more to P18.9 billion; and Department of Social Welfare and Development, which got the biggest additional funds of P165.2 billion, more than doubling its budget to over P329 billion from P163.8 billion originally.
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