Funding crucial in turning Sona promises into reality–Recto
Without funding, President Rodrigo Duterte’s promises during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) “will remain as empty pledges,” Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said on Tuesday.
“Rhetoric must be translated to reality and the way to do it is through general appropriations. Promises are given in the Sona and are redeemed in the budget,” Recto said in a statement
“A Sona is a major assumption of the budget. The one for next year must allocate funds that will carry out what he promised the people last Monday,” he said.
While not all programs spelled out during the Sona might require funding, the senator said, “some must be attached to peso signs.”
The senator mentioned Duterte’s promise to help drug addicts reform when there is a national shortage of rehab centers.
“I hope there will be funding to address this in the 2017 budget. For the campaign against drugs to succeed, it must have a rehabilitative component,” Recto said.
To stamp out other crimes, he said, the government should also allocate funds for firearms for 16,140 “gunless” policemen and fill 24,000 vacant uniformed positions in the Philippine National Police.
He also cited Duterte’s promise to help Filipinos in distress abroad.
Based on the 2016 General Appropriations Act, Recto said, the Department of Foreign Affair’s (DFA) Assistance to Nationals Fund and Legal Assistance Fund was at P400 million and P100 million respectively, while the Department of Labor and Employment had a P50 million Emergency Repatriation Program lodged in the labor secretary’s office to bring home Filipinos caught in difficult circumstances abroad.
Recto said Duterte’s pledge to provide rice subsidy to poor families must also be funded.
“Saan ilalagay ang pondo (Where does the fund go)? Sa (To the) DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) ba o sa (or to the) Department of Agriculture? If DSWD will become the national rice dispenser, will its 2016 budget of P110.82 billion be hiked?” he asked.
He said Duterte’s pledge “to make more trains run on time and lay more railroad tracks” will also definitely require money.
“Will this be in the national budget as subsidy to rail riders again? Will it be in the form of PPP (Public-Private Partnership)? And if money is given, what will be the assurance that it will be spent on time?”
For 2016, Recto said, the total rail sector funding in the national budget was at P12.02 billion, with Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) given P9.40 billion while P2.62 billion has been allotted for the Philippine National Railways (PNR).
He said Duterte’s assurance that more free public Wi-Fi areas would be put up would mean that the project should be sustained.
For 2016, the senator said, the Wi-Fi project had a budget of P1.6 billion, enough to install hotspots in 1,435 municipalities. “If we are going to roll out more, then how much will be allocated next year?” he said.
Recto said the President’s “no demolition without relocation” promise would remain a good slogan unless more funds are allocated for housing.
This year, he said, the total housing and community expenditures is P33.48 billion, with the National Housing Authority getting its lion’s share of P30.48 billion.
Recto said latest government figures pegged the housing backlog at 3.92 million in 2011, with housing need increasing by an average of 345,941 units annually.
Malacañang is expected to submit to Congress a proposed P 3.3 billion national budget for 2017. CDG/rga
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