Education, social welfare, health, agri dominate ratified 2017 budget
MANILA — The House of Representatives ratified the P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 on Tuesday evening after the bicameral conference committee reached consensus on a final version in spite of disagreements.
The 293-seat chamber approved the measure by a voice vote, and it is to be transmitted to President Duterte for signature on Dec. 22.
Earlier Tuesday, the bicameral conference committee agreed to reallocate the P8.3-billion item that was originally allocated by the House to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) purposely for development projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The House contingent, upon the proposal of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, agreed to accept the Senate’s position to allocate the money to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to fund scholarships for indigent college students.
“I said, if I were to be asked, let’s just put it in education — CHED in this case, and SUCs (state universities and colleges) — so that more scholars will benefit,” Alvarez said in a chance interview.
But appropriations committee chair Karlo Alexei Nograles, in a statement, expressed his reservations about the additional allocation for CHED.
The P8.3 billion was allocated purportedly to “finance free tuition for students” in all SUCs and as additional funds for incentives and grants.
“It’s a good concept to have free tuition fees for all students in our SUCs but I’m really worried if the fund is actually enough or if it will be properly implemented. The worst thing that can happen is if this fund becomes underutilized or underspent,” he said.
Other additional “big ticket” projects approved in the bicameral version of the bill are as follow:
1. Additional of 1,000 cash allowance for teachers (P770 million);
2. Additional funds for scholarship in SUCS (P1.2 billion);
3. Free tuition for medical students (P317 million);
4. Supplemental feeding (P1 billion);
5. Centenarian fund (P100 million);
6. Irrigation fees subsidy (P2 billion);
7. “Pondo sa pag-asenso at pagbabago fund” (P1 billion);
8. Additional increase of Philhealth subsidy (P3 billion);
9. Additional funds for “Doctors to the Barrios” and construction of health facilities (P1.5 billion);
10. Additional fund for the Department of National Defense (P2.8 billion). SFM
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