Press Release
November 28, 2016

Senate okays 2017 budget, 40% goes to social services

In record time, the Senate today approved on third and final reading the P 3.35 trillion proposed national budget for 2017, with 20 affirmative votes, no negative vote and no abstention.

This was the earliest time the Senate had passed its version of the national budget in recent years.

Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the Senate version of the 2017 national budget aimed to deliver the changes Filipinos want, and "sets bold plans to meet not just today's needs, but one that looks beyond 2017, one that contributes to delivering long-term solutions to the country's long-term problems." Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said the budget the Senate passed was in keeping with the Senate majority's promise to reform the budget and declare a war on waste.

Pimentel said, "I am proud to present to the Filipino people a Budget for Change that fully supports the aims of President Rodrigo Duterte and the well-being of every Filipino."

DepED, DPWH get biggest funds

Around P1.4 trillion or 40 percent of the entire 2017 budget was allocated for social services "to address the most basic needs of our people."

The education sector once more took the largest slice of the pie with the Department of Education and attached agencies receiving P546.62 billion "to finance the construction of classrooms, hiring of teachers and procurement of instructional materials."

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) received the second largest share with P443.76 billion, to spur infrastructure spending, "given its indispensable role in poverty reduction, raising productivity, and in spreading the benefits of economic growth."

The third highest allocation went to the Department of Health (DOH) with P155.15 billion, following the Senate's addition of funds to various offices and programs under the department - capped off by a P3 billion increase in the Philhealth budget "to ensure that all Filipinos will be covered by the universal healthcare program."

The Department of Interior and Local Government was allocated P147.58 billion, followed by the Department of National Defense with P135.04 billion and the Department of Social Welfare and Development at P128.31 billion.

Better social services

According to Legarda, the increases in budgetary allocations to agencies like the DEPED and DOH would ensure the delivery of basic services and benefits to all Filipinos.

Under the 2017 budget, Legarda said, at least P155 billion went to improving health services, particularly through "the hiring of doctors, midwives and nurses to service the needs of our poorest communities in the country; building more hospitals; and procuring medicines."

Legarda said President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs would also enjoy ample budgetary support, noting that "rehabilitation centers for drug dependents would be built, as part of government efforts to find a lasting solution to our war on drugs."

She said that under the Senate version of the 2017 budget, all state universities and colleges (SUCs) would get an additional P50 million in their capital outlay, putting the total allocation for SUCs at P63.62 billion.

Legarda said the allocation of P78.2 billion to the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program under the 2017 national budget should dispel fears on the cancellation of the program, as the program aimed to target 4.4 million eligible beneficiaries next year. The 2017 budget also provided for social pension to all indigent senior citizens ages 60 and above.

Hike in AFP, PNP budgets

Like the social services and infrastructure building, the country's defense and law enforcement sectors are also getting substantial increases in their budgetary allocations next year.

The Philippine National Police received P111.26 billion budget next year, to allow the national police force to procure more personnel and badly-needed equipment such as firearms and equipment in the ongoing war on drugs and criminality.

This was also the case for the AFP, which had been allocated P130.742 billion to complement the AFP Modernization Program, of P25 billion.

In response to a growing number of prisoners throughout the country, the Senate also proposed P388 million for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for additional subsistence allowance for prisoners. Likewise, a P163 million budget was granted to the Bureau of Corrections to increase prisoners' daily subsistence allowance.

Underspending discouraged

To address frequent underspending among government agencies, the Senate's version of the 2017 budget had set a One-year Availability timeframe of Appropriations under the 2017 GAA.

The move, Legarda said, was meant "to instill a sense of urgency among government agencies in utilizing their budget to the last peso."

"Our budget is our investment for the future. It is supposed to construct new mass transport systems, new airports, road systems, and schools. They are supposed to fund services for the sick and poor; provide electricity to our people; and build irrigation for our farmers," Legarda said.

"Underspending simply means missed opportunities. We wish to encourage that we all work together and provide the people what is due them," she added.

After passing the budget on third reading, the Senate elected Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto and Senators Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, Maria Lourdes "Nancy" Binay, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri as members of the bicameral conference committee which will reconcile the disagreeing provision of the Senate and House versions of the national budget. Legarda is the head of the panel.

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