Aquino gov't kickstarts 2017 budget process
Prinz Magtulis ( - January 21, 2016 - 1:12am

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration has started the budget process for its successor's outlay next year, eyeing to pass on to the next president a budget proposal he or she can revisit before submitting to Congress.

According to National Budget Memorandum 125, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) aims to finalize the budget by July 1, a day after President Aquino steps down from office.

That would leave the new president a hand to review or approve the proposed outlay.

The new leader is forecast to give his or her first budget approval by July 21 before submitting the document to a new Congress by July 26.

"The 2017 budget is entirely the budget of the new administration. We are preparing, nevertheless, because the new administration (just) takes over on July 1," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a text message.

For the past six years, the Aquino administration was able to have the budget enacted into law before the start of the following fiscal year, avoiding re-enacted outlays that left new programs unfunded.

For 2017, Abad said it will be up to the next government how to go about with the budget process.

"It will not have time to prepare a new (budget). But can it revise what we prepared? Of course. But it should observe the constitutional deadline for submitting the budget," he pointed out.

Under Article VII, Section 22 of the Constitution, the president is tasked to submit a budget proposal to the legislature within 30 days from the opening of its regular session.

For Alvin Ang, economist at Ateneo de Manila University, the new government will be "pressured" to continue what can be considered this administration's "legacy."

"I think there will be pressure for the next government to continue the fiscal discipline practiced by this administration. It will be very sloppy for it to start with a re-enacted budget," Ang said in a phone interview.

"Passing the budget on time has been the legacy of this administration," he added.

As to economic priorities, Ang said the new government would still have the power to re-calibrate the budget during congressional deliberations.

Under the budget call, agencies were asked to focus their proposals on the "poorest" and "climate vulnerable" areas. Each office is also expected to practice "spending within our means."

Lump sum allocations should be disaggregated, while the "bottom-up budgeting" approach - where civil society organizations are consulted during budget preparations - will be continued.

Select agencies, such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, must also include in their outlays three-year infrastructure programs and a pipeline of public-private partnership projects to be offered.

"For fiscal year 2017, agencies shall prioritize funding for strategic local infrastructure projects (e.g., arterial, provincial roads and bridges, ports and airports)," the memorandum said.

Budget proposals will be based on macroeconomic assumptions and budget ceilings to be approved by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee chaired by Abad.

"A separate budget priority framework with aggregate budget levels will be issued separately," Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said in a text message.

This year's P3.002-trillion outlay is up 15.3 percent from last year and followed a trend that started in 2012 which saw the budget rise by double-digit percentages.

DBM data showed annual outlays rose by 10.4 percent in 2012, 10.46 percent in 2013, 12.91 percent in 2014 and 15.05 percent in 2015.

To address agency concerns on budget preparation, DBM said it has scheduled a two-day forum today and on Monday. 

"To facilitate resolution of common issues/concerns, similarly-situated departments/agencies are advised to attend the forum on their designated schedule," the DBM said in a separate circular.

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