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Duterte cuts health budget by P31 B

Budget documents the President has submitted to Congress show that he reduced the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget from P125 billion this year to P94 billion next year, or by a whopping P31 billion. AP/Bullit Marquez, file photo

MANILA, Philippines - The war on drugs has a trade-off in terms of allocation of taxpayers’ money.

While President Duterte has substantially increased the budget of the police, military and his own office, he has largely reduced funding for health services, agriculture, labor and employment, and foreign affairs.

Budget documents the President has submitted to Congress show that he reduced the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget from P125 billion this year to P94 billion next year, or by a whopping P31 billion.

Money for maintenance and other operating expenses of the DOH will go down from P75.1 billion to P38.9 billion, while funding for capital expenditures like clinics and hospitals will be reduced from P27.6 billion to P25.2 billion.

What will go up is funding for salaries, from P22.3 billion to P29.9 billion, principally because the DOH plans to recruit new doctors, nurses and midwives for deployment in rural areas.

During the Aquino administration, allocation for capital expenditures of the DOH increased due to the upgrading of medical facilities in the provinces and the construction of barangay health clinics.

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Duterte is also reducing funds for agriculture by P3.6 billion, from P48.9 billion to P45.3 billion; labor and employment by P5.3 billion, from P18.8 billion to P13.5 billion; and for the Department of Foreign Affairs by almost P4 billion, from P20.8 billion to P16.7 billion.

On the other hand, Duterte is substantially increasing the budget for his own office, from P2.9 billion to P20.030 billion. The increase includes P2.5 billion in intelligence funds and more than P7 billion for representation and entertainment expenses.

The President is also giving the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which includes the Philippine National Police, an additional P25 billion, and the Department of National Defense, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, P17 billion more.

“My government will double or even triple its efforts to bring drug pushers and crime syndicates behind bars. This budget provides P110.4 billion for the Philippine National Police, higher by 24.6 percent than in 2016,” Duterte said in his budget message to Congress.

He said the additional money would be used “to hire more policemen, buy more guns and patrol vehicles and finance other activities for more effective crime suppression.”

“Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will have P130.6 billion. This is 15 percent higher than its budget for this year. This will be used to intensify the AFP’s counter-terrorism efforts and to protect our borders,” he said.

He added that the AFP modernization program would have P25 billion “to give our soldiers more weapons and equipment.”

No salary hike for cops, soldiers

But the additional money for the police and the military do not include funding requirements for Duterte’s promise to double the salaries of soldiers and policemen.

He told soldiers in Cebu City three weeks ago that they would have doubled their paycheck by December this year.

But Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the Duterte administration would not be able to increase the salaries of soldiers and policemen this year.

Diokno said what soldiers and policemen would get is an additional monthly allowance of P5,000 starting next month, he said.

This has prompted Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to accuse Duterte of making promises that he could not keep, raising false hopes among police and military personnel and of being a “big talker.”

DepEd to get P566 B

But the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has proposed a budget of over P566 billion for the Department of Education next year, up by P135 billion from the allocation that DepEd received this year.

Based on the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress, DepEd’s budget – both new and automatic appropriations – will increase from P431.1 billion in 2016 to P566.2 billion in 2017.

Like in the previous administration, DepEd will receive the biggest chunk of the proposed P3.35-trillion budget for next year.

“Education is not on the back burner of the Duterte administration,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones, noting that the President is supportive of the proposal to hike DepEd’s budget by almost 30 percent.

A fiscalizer and former National Treasurer, Briones pledged to ensure that DepEd’s huge budget allocation is efficiently managed and that the projects are completed on time.

“We still have to prove that we are capable of spending every single centavo,” she added.

If the NEP 2017 is approved as proposed, DepEd will receive P116 billion under the Basic Education Facilities (BEF), which funds the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings, as well as for the procurement of school facilities.

This year, the government has allocated over P82 billion for the BEF.

Another P28.3 billion is allocated for the creation of new teaching positions as the first batch of K-12 students is expected to begin Grade 12 next year.

According to the DBM, the government intends to construct or replace over 37,500 classrooms and hire more than 53,000 additional teachers in 2017.

The government has also allotted P16 billion for midyear bonus in line with the implementation of the latest salary standardization, and provided a P1-billion increase to the special hardship allowance of teachers from P1.1 billion in 2016 to P2.1 billion next year.

The proposed budget for financial subsidy for students almost doubled, from P28.9 billion this year to P45.5 billion next year. - With Janvic Mateo

 

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