House approves P3-T nat’l budget for 2016
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Voting 230-20, the House of Representatives approved last night the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 after President Aquino certified it as urgent.

House Bill 6132 or the 2016 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) was approved at around 10 p.m. amid strong protests from lawmakers from independent and opposition blocs.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. described the GAB as “one of the most, if not the most important bill expected of this chamber this year.”

“With our steadfast efforts and steely resolve, we’re step closer to the enactment of the GAB into law before the end of the year,” Belmonte said in his address to his colleagues shortly after the budget’s approval.

He said with the timely approval of the budget, he hopes that the practice of “reenacting” the budget, or delaying the approval of the measure, will be now a thing of the past.

Reps. Lito Atienza of the Buhay party-list and Jonathan dela Cruz of the Abakada party-list, both from the independent bloc, slammed the leadership of the chamber for passing the GAB, which they said did not address the needs of the poor.

Dela Cruz said the House lost the opportunity to hold corrupt and incompetent officials accountable during the budget deliberations because the chamber’s leadership rushed the debates that the bill was passed untouched.

“We did not defend and protect our people. We’re very, very sad because we did not speak for the people yet we call ourselves representatives,” Dela Cruz shouted on the floor.

“We wasted the opportunity to hold officials of these agencies, like the LTFRB (Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board), the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication), accountable,” he said.

Atienza said there was nothing in the proposed budget that would truly help the poor.

As of 7:30 p.m. last night, the plenary was scheduled to wrap up deliberations on the proposed budgets of the Departments of Health, National Defense, Justice, and Budget and Management, which were facing close scrutiny from opposition lawmakers.

The lump sums in the proposed 2016 General Appropriations Act – which some lawmakers warned were sources of corruption in an election year – were also being questioned on the floor.

Aquino on Wednesday certified the proposed outlay as urgent, which meant the chamber can skip the normal three-day buffer between the approval of a bill on second reading, and third and final reading.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said nearly one-third of the budget or P758.398 billion were in the corruption-prone lump sums, or allocations without specific spending instructions.

“The Aquino administration is just perpetuating the pork barrel in the national budget and this will also continue in the supposed daang matuwid (straight path),” Colmenares said.

He said in this year’s budget, the lump sums totaled P424 billion and not do include other items in the unprogrammed fund and other special purpose funds.

“Malacanang is obviously skirting the Supreme Court ruling against the pork barrel. And their excuse that they will be used for calamities won’t be believed because they’re too big, and they have yet to help victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda,” he said.

Colmenares said there were many lump sums in the proposed budget that were not related to emergencies or calamities.

The proposed budget is double the budget of the past six years, from P1.541 trillion of the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to the P3.002 trillion planned for next year, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

It is also 15.2 percent higher than the 2015 GAA.

On the other hand, the gross domestic product (GDP) share of 19.5 percent in 2016 will take up a larger share of the economy compared to 18.7 percent of the GDP in 2015 and 16.4 percent of the GDP (actual obligations) in 2010, it said.

Social services will have the biggest budget allocation of P1.1059 trillion, which is 36.8 percent of the proposed budget.

Covering education, healthcare, housing, and social welfare and employment, this allocation received a 16.1 percent expansion from the 2015 allocation of P952.7 billion.

Economic services took the second largest share with P829.6 billion 27.64 percent of the proposed outlay, which had increased by 17.3 percent from its 2015 allocation of 27.13 percent.

Transport and communications infrastructure will get the bulk of the budget and bring expenditures to infrastructure to five percent of the GDP.

As such, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will receive P394.5 billion to enable the agency to complete the pavement of all national arterial and secondary roads.

The Department of Education was given the most allocation in terms of appropriation to agencies in the Executive branch at P435.9 billion, followed by the DPWH at P394.5 billion.

Other departments in the top 10 in terms of allocations are the Departments of National Defense, P172.7 billion; Interior and Local Government, P154.5 billion; Health, P128.4 billion; Social Welfare and Development, P104.2 billion; Agriculture, P93.4 billion; Finance, P55.3 billion; Transportation and Communications, P49.3 billion; Environment and Natural Resources, P25.8 billion; and Science and Technology, P18.6 billion.

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