Funding for 3 departments may still increase
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said this over the weekend as the House starts today its period of amendments on House Bill 4228 or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill, which was passed by a vote of 257-6 on third and final reading last Friday.
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Funding for 3 departments may still increase
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed appropriations for at least three departments under the P4.1-trillion national budget for next year may still increase despite its passage in record time by the House of Representatives last Friday.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said this over the weekend as the House starts today its period of amendments on House Bill 4228 or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill, which was passed by a vote of 257-6 on third and final reading last Friday.

In a statement, Cayetano bared that several changes would be made in the GAB despite its approval by the chamber, to augment funds of specific agencies in need.

Cayetano specifically cited the appropriations for the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Education (DepEd) and Health (DOH).

He revealed that the National Food Authority (NFA) under the DA would be given an additional P10 billion next year to fund its purchase of palay from farmers who have been severely affected by the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The representative of Taguig-Pateros district said House appropriations committee chair and Davao City 3rd district Rep. Isidro Ungab has already sourced P3 billion of the needed fund.

“There seems to be a consensus that we should add to the P7-billion fund to buy palay to help our farmers,” he noted.

If possible, Cayetano said the House would add more than P10 billion to NFA’s fund for the palay purchase. The DA asked for a P333-billion budget for next year, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only allocated P71.8 billion for the agency under the National Expenditure Program, which was copied for the GAB by the House.

He also said that the House would look into augmenting the 2020 budgets of DepEd and DOH.

The DepEd got a budget cut from the DBM in the 2020 proposed national budget. It asked for P803.13 billion, but DBM only recommended P550.89 billion.

Likewise, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) budget will go down by P11.65 billion next year. It will get P40.784 billion in 2020, which is 22.22 percent lower than its budget of P52.435 billion this year.

In the same 2020 GAB, the DOH has a combined allocation of P159.2 billion – P92.2 billion for DOH and P67 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) – an amount that is five percent lower than the 2019 appropriation of P169.45 billion.

“Education and health need much more fund and fine-tuning of their programs,” Cayetano stressed.

Following this, he has asked his colleagues to submit their proposed individual and institutional amendments and offer better alternatives. Institutional amendments refer to changes made to the budgets of national agencies, while individual amendments usually refer to realignments of funds for particular districts.

“With an open mind and with open ears, whether we voted yes or no, let us submit these amendments, let us talk and criticize, yes, but let us come up with alternatives. However sound criticisms are, they will be futile if we don’t offer better alternatives,” he said as he assured them that they “will accept and look at each and every amendment with consensus.”

Opposition lawmakers criticized the GAB prior to its passage on final reading due to budget cuts in key agencies.

In her turno en contra speech prior to the voting, senior deputy minority leader and Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin, questioned the decrease in budget of DOH, DepEd and CHED.

Minority leader and Manila 6th district Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., for his part, said there is a need to amend the GAB as he argued that some agencies and programs are “more deserving than others.”

Meanwhile, militant lawmakers led by deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate questioned the speed by which the House passed the proposed 2020 budget, claiming they did not have ample time to scrutinize all the provisions of the GAB, which was deliberated upon and passed within a record one-month period.

Cayetano explained that the immediate passage of the GAB would prevent delay in the enactment of the budget that could have repercussions on the country’s economy – as in the case of this year’s budget. He stressed that it would allow Congress to devote its time to other equally important mandates.

“It will give us enough time to pass urgent measures including revenue measures that will fund the budget next year for the next generations to come. Also it will give us time to review our programs on health, education and other social services which our people are constantly demanding more and better services,” he pointed out.

The DBM submitted the NEP to Congress last Aug. 20, paving the way for marathon hearings by the House committee on appropriations.

The GAB was approved without amendment by the panel chaired by Ungab last Sept. 9 and submitted to the plenary on the same day.

President Duterte certified the bill as urgent last Sept. 17, prompting the House to pass it on second and third readings last Sept. 20.   

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