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Bicam approves proposed P3.35-T budget for 2017

Members of both chambers have signed the committee report on the budget and are expected to ratify it this afternoon. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference, composed of members of both the House of Representatives and Senate, on Tuesday finally approved the proposed P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017, the first under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said that members of both chambers have signed the committee report on the budget and are expected to ratify it this afternoon.

After ratification, the report will be presented to Duterte for signing.

Legarda, in an interview with reporters, assured that the budget was free from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel which was previously declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

“If you would define pork based on a Supreme Court definition. It is post-enactment. These are all line items within the budget even before it’s enacted,” Legarda said.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, like Legarda, said that what was earlier cited by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson as pork were line items.

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“There’s something that one member of the Senate thought that was pork. As far as we’re concerned, that’s not pork because that’s line item identified through the medium term development plan by National Economic Development Authority,” Nograles said.

He explained that the Senate had a different interpretation from the House.

“Maybe not everyone agreed but the bicameral committee of the House agreed when the Senate stood firm,” Legarda added.

She meanwhile described the budget as social inclusive noting that it had provisions that benefited the poor — particularly free irrigation for farmers, expanded universal healthcare coverage for non-members of PhilHealth, free tuition in state universities and colleges among others.

There will also be higher allowances for inmates, more allotted for the hiring of more doctors and medical personnel, and more drug rehabilitation centers.

"Those are only some of the interventions we made why the budget of 2017 is different and we encourage agencies to use and spend the resources allotted for the poor Filipinos," Legarda said.

Duterte previously said the 2017 budget will prioritize education, agriculture and health. — PNA with a report from Philstar.com/Rosette Adel

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