Senate starts fast-track sessions on P3.35T budget for 2017 | Inquirer News

Senate starts fast-track sessions on P3.35T budget for 2017

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 09:45 AM November 15, 2016
Senate-session-hall

The Senate has started morning sessions to fast track the passage of the P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017. INQUIRER FILE

The Senate has started holding morning sessions to fast-track the passage of the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017.

Among those scheduled for plenary discussions this Tuesday are the proposed budgets of the Department of Finance and attached agencies, the National Economic Development Authority, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, the judiciary as well as allocations to local government units, contingent fund, and unprogrammed fund, and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

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READ: Senate targets to pass 2017 budget this week

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, presented in the plenary Monday night the proposed 2017 budget, which she described as the “biggest annual budget ever assembled — a budget that will help deliver the change that our people want and need.”

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“We live in extraordinary times and we are going through an extraordinary time of change. It is therefore my honor to present to you our proposed 2017 budget that sets bold plans to meet not just today’s needs, but one that looks beyond 2017 – one that contributes to delivering long-term solutions to the country’s long-term problems,” Legarda said in his sponsorship speech.

Next year’s budget, she said, was not a “mere compilation of cold and impersonal words and numbers.”

“It is the lifeblood of our nation, crafted to fuel hope and inspire our people to believe in our collective future again,” the senator said.

“It is the lifeblood of our nation, crafted to fuel hope and inspire our people to believe in our collective future again,” the senator said.

“We need to be ambitious for our people. But how can we put life into this ambition if the resources to deliver programs are not spent?” she said.

Legarda said she was “outraged” by the fact that while people are pleading for as little as a few hundreds of pesos to buy food or a few thousands to continue education, billions of funds intended for programs have remained untouched.

She pointed out that as of June 30, 2016, the government was saddled with total unobligated allotments amounting to P156.98 billion.

“Agencies simply were not able to spend these funds released in 2015. The logic escapes me,” Legarda said.

“Agencies simply were not able to spend these funds released in 2015. The logic escapes me,” Legarda said.

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“While agencies, by law, have only until December 2016 to spend these funds, it is unwise to indulge in wasteful year-end spending because this can only result to sacrifices in spending quality,” she said.

The senator said underspending simply means “missed opportunities,” and denying the people the services they deserve.

To address the problem, Legarda said, the 2017 provides a “disincentive to hoard funds by limiting executive discretion to impound funds, in accord with the decision of the Supreme Court.”

She said the budget would also clearly define the conditions under which savings may be declared, compliant with the decision of the Supreme Court.

Starting next year, the senator said, savings could only be declared under the following conditions:

  1. Final discontinuance, or abandonment of an ongoing program, activity, or project (P/A/P) by the head of agency concerned due to causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the said agency, which would not render it possible for the agency to implement said P/A/P during the validity of appropriations;
  1. Non-commencement of the P/A/P for which the appropriations is released. Non-commencement shall mean the inability of the agency or its duly authorized procurement agent to obligate the released allotment and implement the P/A/P due to natural or man-made calamities or other causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the agency;
  1. Decreased cost resulting from improved efficiency during the implementation or until the completion of the P/A/Ps or
  1. Difference between the approved budget for the contract and the contract price, including any variation required for its project.

“Programmed appropriations which have not been released or allotments not yet obligated shall not be considered savings,” said Legarda.

As a “people’s budget for real change,” she said P1.345 trillion or 40 percent of the 2017 budget was allotted for social services that would address the most basic needs of the people.

The proposed national budget also contained P151.5 billion for health services, P699.95 billion for education, P78.7 billion for a comprehensive social investment package in the form of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, and P860.7 billion for infrastructure development, among others. CBB/rga

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TAGS: budget, GAA 2017, government savings, News, Senate
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