Bato dela Rosa bats for bigger defense budget in 2024 NEP: ‘Defense ang pinakakawawa’
MANILA, Philippines — On the second day of the Senate deliberations on the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa pushed for a higher appropriation for the country’s defense sector, noting the need to strengthen it.
“Defense [ang] pinaka kawawa. Pinakamaliit [at] 4.9 percent,” the lawmaker stressed, citing the distribution of the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024 to different sectors.
(Defense is the most miserable. Smallest at 4.9 percent.)
Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that social services will receive the largest allocation in next year’s proposed national budget at P2.183 trillion – or 37.9 percent of the whole financial plan pie.
This was followed by economic services (P1.709 trillion or 29.6 percent), general public services (P893.3 billion or 15.5 percent), debt services (P699.2 billion or 12.1 percent), and defense (P282.7 billion or 4.9 percent).
“If I were the President and I asked the economic team to take the .9 percent from the social [services] sector and transfer it to the defense sector, would you do it?” dela Rosa asked as he appeared unsatisfied with the proposed national budget breakdown and suggested adjustments in the planned allocation for the defense sector in 2024.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno replied, saying it can and will be done if dela Rosa is the President.
Diokno stressed the importance of continuously providing a considerable funding for social services, noting its large scope for it include health, education, culture and manpower development, as well as social security, welfare, and employment.
“Ikaw, you will argue na hindi pwede. Pero ako, I will say [na] hindi naman ‘yan totally tatanggalin. Bawasan mo lang nang kaunti at idagdag sa defense para makabili tayo ng barko na malaki [at] may water pump at kapag binuhusan tayo ng tubig ng Tsina ay maka respond tayo – tubig sa tubig,” said dela Rosa.
(You will argue that it is not possible. But I will say [that] that will not be totally removed. Just reduce it a little and add to the defense so that we can buy a ship that is big [and] has a water pump and when China pours water on us we can respond – water to water.)
“Forgive me, my heart goes to the [military and uniformed personnel] because I have been there. I saw my people dying before my eyes during encounters with the enemy,” he added.
Ddela Rosa repeated his hypothetical question, asking whether the budget can be adjusted upon his request if he is the President.
“If you are the President, it will be done,” Diokno reiterated.
Dela Rosa followed through, clarifying he does not want to be the President and that he only wants to pave the way for more support to the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy amid continued threats and oppression by external forces within the Philippines’ territorial waters.
DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, for her part, said they understand the need to strengthen the country’s defense that’s why despite the “limited fiscal space,” they still tried to increase the sector’s budget from 4.4 to 4.9 percent.