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The House of Representatives begins its plenary deliberations on the proposed 2018 National Budget.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles of Davao City delivered his sponsorship speech today at the start of the marathon sessions that will last the whole week till Friday.

“Ang badyet ng taong 2017 ay nakilala bilang “transition budget” – salaping panggugol na nag-uugnay sa panahong nakaraan at kasalukuyan – tungo sa tapat na pagbabago.”

Nograles spoke of  five core principles that serve as anchors behind the budget: a  credible and disciplined fiscal policy, a fiscal space will be dedicated towards equitable progress and social order, a Budget will be reflective of our policies, a budget  that strengthens accountability and transparency and a  budget that enhances  partnerships. with local governments

Nograles explains that this budget addresses the lingering twin problems of poverty and inequality, through the following:

Better Education at all levels by increasing the allocation for education to PhP 691.1 billion in 2018, higher by PhP 41.7 billion compared to 2017. PhP 613.1 billion will go to the Department of Education alone for the much needed construction of 47,000 classrooms; repair and rehabilitation of 18,000 classrooms; procurement of 84,781 school seats; and creation of 81,100 teaching positions.

This year’s budget will also strengthen and expand access to higher education through additional Government Assistance and Subsidies to students and teachers; the implementation of the Unified Financial Assistance System or the UniFAST Act; and also providing PhP 4.8 billion worth of financial assistance to college students through the Commission on Higher Education’s Tulong Dunong Program.

Improving Healthcare for all Filipinos by increasing the provision for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health, from Php 24.2 billion in 2017 to PhP 29.0 billion in 2018 for the facilities improvement of 353 hospitals, construction of 1,497 Barangay Health Stations (BHS), building of 177 new Rural Health Units (RHUs), and to complete and equip 3,320 RHUs and 28,188 BHUs. Likewise, some PhP 57.1 billion for the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) is intended for the health insurance benefits of 15.4 million families at PhP 2,400 per family; 5.4 million senior citizens at PhP 3,120 per senior citizen; 22,514 families under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program and the 22,709 Bangsamoro families. The Health Human Resource Deployment Program will also receive PhP 9.7 billion to hire and deploy multiple doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists to hard-to-reach communities.

Strengthening Labor and Employment by creating more opportunities and improving the ability of Filipinos to earn a living through the provision of PhP 7.0 billion to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for skills enhancement and retooling programs; PhP 2.6 billion for the Training for Work Scholarship Program for in-demand skills training and PhP 681.5 million earmarked for the Special Training for Employment Program for specific needs of communities.

To enhance employability of workers, the Department of Labor and Employment will receive PhP 11.2 billion for the upgrading of skills and qualifications, job matching, the Special Program for the Employment of Students, the JobStart Philippines Program and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program.

Enhancing the Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT) by continuing to protect the 4.4 million existing members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program – otherwise known as the 4Ps – with an PhP 89.4 billion allocation to cover educational grants, livelihood assistance and health services for the Transitioning Household Beneficiaries. PhP 7.1 B will also be used to strengthen the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for technical vocational skills training, and financial assistance for employment and livelihood assistance.

ADDRESSING INEQUALITY

To address inequality and to ensure the re-distribution of incomes in favour of the poor, the 2018 Budget will:

Expand Opportunities in Industry and Services through a PhP 6.7 billion budget for the Department of Trade and Industry, PhP 515 million of which will go to establishing 150 additional Negosyo Centers, sustaining 597 exisiting centers, as well as providing financial assistance to 45,000 MSMEs, with PhP 200 million allocated for Shared Service Facilities to give these MSMEs better access to equipment, tools and technology.

Reviving the manufacturing industry through the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) of the DTI. While we are providing it with PhP 27 billion worth of incentives and fixed investment support for the production of 600,000 cars and car parts, this program will bring in PhP 7.5 billion in fresh incentives, 67,500 new jobs and PhP 7.6 billion in revenues for the government. “We will accelerate job creation in the countryside by improving access to tourism gateways and service centers as well as economic zones. The budget for the convergence project of the Department of Tourism and the DPWH will increase from PhP 12.3 billion in 2017 to PhP 35 billion in 2018, to build more roads leading to tourism destinations.”

This year’s budget also earmarks PhP 12 billion to fund the President’s ROLL IT, or the Roads Leveraging Linkages of Industry and Trade, to construct roads leading to trade, industrial, manufacturing, agribusiness and other economic zones.

Expand Economic Opportunities in Agriculture

To ensure food security, the Department of Agriculture will be provided PhP 54.2 billion in 2018, up from PhP 45.9 billion this year, to increase the total irrigated harvest area using hybrid seeds by 500,000 hectares, or by 47%, which would mean 19.79 million metric tons of palay yield compared to this year’s target of 18.57 million metric tons.

Other major productivity-enhancing programs to be implemented include:

PhP 40.9 billion budget for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for the development, restoration, repair and rehabilitation of irrigation systems nationwide;

PhP 11.8 billion to construct an additional 1,179 km of farm-to-market roads (FMRs);

PhP 951 million for the acquisition of 379 Combine Harvesters and 465 Transplanters; and

PhP 2.3 billion to fund Research and Development initiatives on planting materials, poultry, piggery and fishery products.

To Strengthen Land Tenure and Security the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will be provided PhP 10.3 billion to fast-track land distribution to beneficiaries and to enhance pro-farmer programs, of which PhP 1.1 billion would give much needed agribusiness and agri-forestry programs to Mindanao through the extension of the Mindanao Sustainable Agrarian and Agriculture Development Project. The budget also covers PhP 603 million needed for DAR’s Climate Resilient Farm Productivity Support Program to further strengthen the crop production ability of our ARB organizations.

Nograles adds that the 2018 Budget must also provide the foundation for sustainable development. To achieve this, we must embark on a massive infrastructure program complemented by reforms in programs for peace, security and ecological integrity.

Fast-track Strategic Infrastructure. Over the medium-term, the Duterte Administration will need to raise substantial funding for its Build, Build, Build Program. For 2018, this amounts to PhP 1.097 trillion, a 27.9 percent increase over its 2017 level of PhP 858.1 billion. Some PhP 431.1 billion will fund various road network projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Notably, we will be constructing PhP 49.3 billion worth or bypasses and diversion roads and spending PhP 15 billion to pave national arterial and secondary roads, PhP 5.4 billion to construct flyovers, interchanges and underpasses and PhP 55.4 billion to construct missing links all across the 16 regions of the country.

The Land Transportation Program will also receive PhP 12.6 billion, representing a whopping 157.1 percent increase as compared to the current PhP 4.9 billion. From this budget we will be able to fund the PhP 5.4 billion Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the PhP 1.8 billion Metro Manila BRT – Line 1 and the PhP 3.1 billion Metro Manila BRT – Line 2.

For 2018, our government will set aside PhP 10.1 billion for the Aviation Infrastructure Program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to build new airports and expand and modernize existing ones. This is a significant 48.5 percent increase or PhP 3.3 billion, from this year’s PhP 6.8 billion budget. Selected projects include the PhP 386 million New Bohol (Panglao) International Airport Development Project, the PhP 920 million Kalibo Airport in Aklan, the PhP 716 million Tacloban Airport, the PhP 306 million Cauayan Airport in Isabela and the PhP 221 million Zamboanga International Airport.

Another crucial pillar for trade and mobility is sea transportation. To address problems of congestion, the Budget allocates some PhP 1.7 billion for the modernization of our ports and harbours, including the upgrading of their operational efficiency in the movement of cargo and vessels. Among the projects included are the PhP 50 million Al-Barka Ports Cluster in Basilan, the PhP 30 million Volcano Island Port in Talisay, Batangas, the PhP 42 million Agkawayan in Looc, Occidental Mindoro, the PhP 71 million Taganak Port in the Turtle Islands, Tawi Tawi, the PhP 17 million San Roque Port in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, the PhP 20 million Pangutaran Port in Sulua and the PhP 50 million Dolores Port in Dolores, Eastern Samar.

The rail transportation program of our President will also be fast-tracked to address growing traffic problems as well as to increase economic activity. The PhP 26.0 billion budget for rail transport will fund the construction of new railways as well as to improve inter-operability of existing railway systems and ensure their proper maintenance. The allocation covers:

PhP 6.6 billion for the 105-km Mindanao Railway Project Phase 1, that will cut down travel time from Davao City to Surigao and Cagayan De Oro from eight to two hours and provide a section linking Davao City to Tagum City in Davao del Norte and Digos City in Davao del Sur.

PhP 7.1 billion for the 653-km North-South Railway Project Phase 2 – PNR South to accommodate around 400,000 passengers per day on opening year; and

PhP 1.2 billion Unified Common Station, connecting three railways and serving 500,000 passengers per day;

Need to Invest in Energy Development with PhP 2.6 billion for the Department of Energy to fund various projects including the Nationwide Intensification Household Electrification and the Sitio Electrification Program of the National Electrification Administration.

Attain Just and Lasting Peace, the government in 2018 will sustain the Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development Program for Sustainable Growth and Equity (BRIDGE) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with Php 3.6 billion, up by 71.4 percent from its 2017 budget of only PhP 2.1 billion, to empower local communities and strengthen local governance. PhP 10.0 billion under the PhP 25.5 billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund will also be made available for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City. Take note that this amount is on top of the PhP 5.0 billion given to Marawi this year out of the Contingent Fund and funds from various other government agencies.

Sustainable Development would not be possible if we are not able to Ensure Security, Public Order and Safety. The Department of National Defense (DND) will be allotted PhP 145 billion, while PhP 172.3 billion will go to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). To beef up our security capabilities we shall be spending PhP 25 billion for the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program and PhP 3.1 billion for the Philippine Coast Guard Modernization Program.

To strengthen our government’s fight against crime, particularly our war on drugs, we are proposing PhP 131.5 billion for the law enforcement operations of the Philippine National Police in 2018. This represent a 17.6 percent increase over 2017’s PhP 111.8 billion to hire 10,000 new Police Officer 1 recruits and fund the Administration’s flagship program against illegal drugs – Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded.

Sustainable Development also requires that we promote Ecological Integrity and a Clean and Healthy Environment to ensure our children are still able to enjoy our rich natural heritage with PhP 7.2 billion for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) National Greening Program for planting, forest rehabilitation, hiring of Forest Protection Officers and the mapping and assessment of our ecological resources. The budget will also cover the Delineation of Production and Protection Forests to delineate areas known as the timber corridor in Mindanao.

Nograles says that for continuous and sustainable growth to really happen, it is equally vital that our country is able to compete in the global economy and as such we need to:

Invest and Develop our Science and Technology (S&T) Human Resources with an increase in our Department of Science and Technology budget for scholarships from PhP 6.8 billion to PhP 7.5 billion or some 36,977 scholar beneficiaries. The DOST ‘s Grants-in-Aid Program (GIA) will also receive a total budget of PhP 6.2 billion for financial grants to S&T programs and projects and for assistance to MSMEs under the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP).

Improving ICT Infrastructure to catch up with our Asian neighbours and to address the gap between urban centers and the rural areas with a PhP 6.9 billion allocation for the Department of Information and Communications Technology. The bulk of this fund will be used to complete the National Broadband Program, provide free WiFi access to 5,308 public spaces and to finance the National Government Data Center Infrastructure.

UPHOLDING GOOD GOVERNANCE

Nograles likewise says that at the core of sustainable, tangible and equitable development is Enhanced Governance. As such, the 2018 Budget will invest in these enhancements:

The need to emphasize the role of LGUs in national development with a significant increase in the Local government Support Fund (LGSF) from PhP 39.8 billion to PhP 50.4 billion to support our LGUs service delivery functions and for the implementation of priority development projects. This budget will also cover Assistance to Municipalities and Assistance to Cities as well as Conditional Matching Grant to Provinces.

The  need to enact efficiencies in governance such as the National Government Rightsizing Program to eliminate redundancy in government as well as significantly lower the overhead costs of government. Hand-in-hand with the Rightsizing Bill is the Budget Reform Bill that will strengthen accountability and transparency in the use of our government funds through an Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and a shift to a one-year appropriations system.

Finally, enhanced governance demands the swift and fair administration of Justice. As such, the Department of Justice is set to receive an 11.4 percent increase in their current PhP 16.6 billion budget to PhP 18.5 billion for 2018. The fund should sufficiently cover the DOJ’s legal services including the operations of the National Bureau of Investigation and the free legal assistance service of our Public Attorney’s Office as well as cover for plantilla positions for public attorneys and prosecutors around the country.

The Judiciary will also receive an increase in their budget from PhP 32.8 billion this year to PhP 34.8 billion in 2018 to cover the operations of the Supreme Court and Lower Courts as well as the construction of the new Supreme Court Complex in Fort Bonifacio and construction of Halls of Justice in areas under the Justice Infrastructure Program.

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