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Duterte set to sign P4.1 trillion 2020 budget

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Duterte set to sign P4.1 trillion 2020 budget
The Office of the President yesterday sent out invitations to leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate for the signing ceremonies set at 4 p.m. at the Rizal Ballroom of Malacañang.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will sign the Congress-approved P4.1-trillion national budget for this year on Monday.

The Office of the President yesterday sent out invitations to leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate for the signing ceremonies set at 4 p.m. at the Rizal Ballroom of Malacañang. Dress code is “Filipiniana/Barong.”

Among House leaders who received invitations are Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, several deputy speakers and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who is appropriations committee chairman.

Cayetano earlier assured the President that there are no pork barrel fund insertions in the proposed budget.

The House sent Duterte an advance copy of the spending bill on Dec. 23 to give him enough time to study it amid claims of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that it contains “pork.”

Ungab, who headed the Davao City council appropriations committee as a councilor when the President was city mayor, said Duterte knows a pork barrel item when he sees one.

Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero, an economist, said the one-week delay in the enactment of the 2020 budget would hopefully not affect the economy.

“I am sure the President’s economic team has a catch-up plan on fund releases and spending,” he said.

Romero, who represents party-list group 1-Pacman, urged the government to ramp up spending “so we could sustain the growth of the economy, which recovered in the third quarter after six months of anemic performance due to last year’s budget delay.”

As approved by the two chambers of Congress, the final version of the 2020 spending bill shows that among agencies, the Department of Public Works and Highways will have the biggest share of the budget at P580.9 billion, which includes the largest augmentation of P51.1 billion.

The Department of Education will have P521.4 billion, including an additional P1.7 billion. State universities and colleges will have P73.7 billion, which reflects an augmentation of more than P8 billion. The Commission on Higher Education will have P46.7 billion, P7 billion more than what the President had proposed.

With the combined funding for educational institutions, the education sector still gets the largest share of the budget, as the Constitution mandates.

The Department of Health received the second largest amount of additional funds at P12 billion, increasing its budget to P101 billion, followed by the Department of Agriculture (DA), which was allocated P7.4 billion more, bringing its 2020 outlay to P62.3 billion.

Some P3 billion of the DA’s gain came from the palay-buying fund of the National Food Authority, which the Senate reduced to P7 billion despite low palay prices.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) also received huge augmentations of P5.4 billion and P6.2 billion, increasing their budgets to P163.8 billion and P9.9 billion, respectively.

The DICT’s P6.2-billion increment is 170 percent its original funding of P3.7 billion. It’s the only agency that received such a huge gain, thanks to the Senate. Its secretary is former senator Gregorio Honasan.

Almost all departments were given additional funds, save for two, which suffered huge reductions. 

The Department of Transportation lost almost P47 billion, with its budget for next year down to P99.4 billion, while funding for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was reduced by P500.7 million to P25.5 billion.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO

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