Drilon optimistic Senate debates on 2012 budget over by Friday

November 16, 2011 1:12 am 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Nov. 15 -– Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance committee, expressed optimism on Tuesday to finish within four days the Senate plenary debates on the proposed P1.816-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2012.

Drilon said the senators agreed in a caucus to hold morning until evening sessions starting Tuesday up to Friday to speed up the passage of the 2012 national budget dubbed as “Results-Focused Budget.”

”We intend to finish debates by Friday and vote in the second and third reading by Monday,” Drilon told the media before the start of Tuesday's morning session.

A bicameral conference committee will be called on November 23-28 to reconcile disagreements between the Senate and the House of Representatives versions of the budget, he added.

Likewise, he assured the passage of the government’s spending plan before lawmakers go on a Christmas holiday break on December 17.

Drilon said he is prepared to defend the proposed national budget which he described as “decidedly biased for the poor” with the increased allocation for social services sector amounting to P575.8 billion, including the P39- billion for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

”We have conducted 54 hearings and technical working groups meetings for this proposed budget that is biased for the poor. We are prepared to defend the 2012 national budget,” Drilon said.

In an effort to help more of the poorest of the poor, Drilon said the finance committee made a special provision on the CCT which effectively transferred P800 million in administrative cost to cash grants to benefit 61,538 additional indigents.

”The centerpiece program of the (Aquino) administration’s poverty reduction agenda is being expended to benefit three million households by January 12. This represents an increase of 700,000 households from the current 2.3 million,” Drilon said.

Aside from the P39 billion budget for CCT program implementation next year, Drilon said the finance committee also proposed the amendment of the special provision that requires the amendment of the PhilHealth Charter as a condition before 5.2 million of the poorest households, identified under the National Household Targeting System, can be enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program.

”By deleting such condition, the proposed amendment will authorize the release of P12 billion from the national budget to pay for the premiums of 5.2 million indigent households at P2,400 per household per annum,” Drilon explained.

Dubbed as a “Results-Focused Budget,” Drilon said the 2012 national budget reflects the five priorities of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s government’s social contract with the Filipino people that includes: governance that is transparent, accountable and participatory; empowerment of the poor and vulnerable, and poverty reduction; economic growth that is sustainable, inclusive and rapid; peace that is lasting and just, and strengthening the rule of law; and, integrity of the environment and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

As he endorsed the government’s spending plans, Drilon appealed to his colleagues to immediately approve the national budget for next year.

”As chairman of the committee on finance, it is my humble submission that the President’s 2012 national budget deserves our full support. We therefore seek its immediate enactment,” Drilon said in sponsoring House Bill No. 5023 or the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2012.

“The national budget is the lifeblood that sustains our economy, the fuel that revs up our nation’s engine of growth as our government endeavors to trek the straight and narrow path, a road less traveled, to economic progress,” he added.

The House of Representatives passed without major amendments the 2012 national budget last October 11.

The outlay, Drilon said, supports a rapid, inclusive and sustained economic growth by increasing allocations for infrastructure services such as irrigation systems and farm-to-market roads “that will spur agribusiness and the roads to tourism destinations.”

“The government is providing for a larger infrastructure program in 2012, P182.2 billion or 25.7 percent higher than this year. This will include funding for public-private partnerships amounting to P22.1 billion,” he said.

Critical investments have also been placed for activities that would secure peace and order, attain environment sustainability, enable growth and better opportunities in conflict-torn areas, promote disaster preparedness and preserve natural resources, said Drilon.

“To foster transparency, accountability and participation in the budget, several reforms were undertaken. As a policy, lump-sum funds were fleshed out, with their allocation directed and released to the smallest implementing units,” he added.

The Finance Committee is recommending amendments, among others, such as the transfer of P1.9 billion fund for the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) or Peaceful and Resilient Communities program to a single fund for easier monitoring which will be used for development projects.

The chamber was also asked to restore some P811 million that the House of Representatives slashed from the budget for irrigation, realign P750 million from the Department of Interior and Local Government to the Local Water Utilities Administration for potable water projects, and cut P100.943 million in the allocation for discretionary funds for the governor and vice-governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) due to corruption in the region as disclosed by audit reports from the Commission on Audit.

Moreover, a P100-million funding has been endorsed for the Governance Commission for Government-owned or -Controlled Corporations (GCG), which was given the delegated authority through Republic Act No. 10149 to review the charter of state firms. The law is principally authored by Drilon.

A cut of P37.532 million representing feasibility studies on the Southern Philippines Development Authority, which has existed for several years, was also proposed.

Drilon introduced amendments to the special provision on “Funding Requirements for the Filling up of Unfilled Positions” for the Judiciary, wherein savings from unfilled positions as of June 30, 2012 may be utilized for the construction and repair of the Hall of Justice and the buildings of Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals and Court of Tax Appeals.

All departments, bureaus and agencies will be required to submit to the President and both Houses of Congress a quarterly report on the accomplishments in the use of confidential and intelligence funds in a bid to promote transparency in budget use.

State-run enterprises are likewise required to submit reports on use of such funds to the President through the GCG and to Congress.

Disbursements to the ARMM will be subject to a pre-audit in view of “poor internal control” of public funds.

The proposed outlay for next year is 10.4 percent higher from the current year’s outlay of P1.645 trillion. Next year’s budget represents 16.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or the value of goods and services produced by an economy in a given period.

Drilon’s co-sponsors for the proposed 2012 GAA are Senators Ralph Recto and Edgardo Angara. (PNA)

DCT/scs/jfm

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