Senate approves 2014 national budget

November 27, 2013 10:18 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison and Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Nov. 26 (PNA) — The Senate on Tuesday approved the proposed P2.264 trillion national budget for 2014, which is lower by P3.2 billion than the original proposal of the Executive due to the deletion of the senators’ allocations for the now unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

"The decrease in the budget proposal of the Executive was the result of the decision of the 15 senators and the Vice President’s P200 million budget who opted to delete their PDAF allocations worth P200 million each senator, as the Supreme Court recently ruled out the PDAF as unconstitutional,” said Senate President Franklin Drilon.

With this decision, the Senate President said, the country’s deficit will be reduced by P3.2 billion in 2014, from P266.2 billion to P263 billion.

"This 3.2 billion will amount to considerable savings for the country, not only for the actual amount of the deficit which we have to address, but also on the interest rates for the deficit which we would also have to pay later," he noted.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Francis Escudero, for his part, said next year’s budget was defined by the "key reform measures and concerns on relief and rehabilitation raised throughout the entire budget process."

According to Escudero, next year’s budget is the most detailed budget proposal in the country’s history with "line items" to include personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlays so that transparency is very high.

"There will be no need any more for the infamous Special Allotment Release Order or SARO that authorizes a government agency to incur obligations not exceeding a given amount during the specified period," he said.

Drilon said the 2014 national budget took into consideration the effects of the recent calamities and the need to boost the aid and relief efforts on areas heavily damaged by the typhoon.

"The 2014 budget, once signed into law, will provide for P100 billion calamity fund badly needed by our countrymen especially those in the Visayas region ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda," he said.

He added that the Senate moved to increase the budget for calamity funds from P20 billion to P100 billion to enable the government to respond to calamities that may hit the Philippines in 2014.

On the other hand, Escudero said the Senate had introduced new measures that were extensively taken during the length of the budget process "in order to introduce new heights of accountability and transparency in the way we craft the people’s budget."

"Foremost among these reforms is the concept of Performance-Informed Budgeting (PAB) that presents the outcomes, outputs and performance targets of government agencies for the succeeding year, and the Program Budgeting Approach (PBA), which allows for better collaboration among government agencies through convergence of efforts and resources along priority programs," he explained.

"In keeping with the government's drive towards inclusive development, the 2014 budget also allowed the citizens' active participation in the crafting of the people's budget through the Budget Partnership Agreements for civil organizations and Bottom-Up Budgeting for local communities," he noted.

Escudero said the biggest slice of the budget pie went to social services with 37 percent or P842.81 billion; followed by economic services at 26 percent or P590.22 billion; Defense, 4.09 percent (P92.85 billion); general public services at 16.07 percent or P364.52 billion; net lending at 1.10 percent or P24.95 billion; and debt service interest payments at 15.55 percent (P352.65 billion).

While most of the expenditures are committed to the main services following the current administration’s agenda of good governance, Escudero noted that several amendments were made to address the relief and rehabilitation efforts on parts of the country damaged by disasters such as the tropical cyclones "Yolanda", "Santi", and "Labuyo", along with the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu.

"The Senate amendments include the P100 billion Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund; the P300 million Quick Response Fund for the DOH (Department of Health); and another P300 million for the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) for the rehabilitation of airports, seaports, railways and inter-island linkages destroyed in recent disasters; an additional P5.5 billion calamity fund for the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council); along with a P336 million grant for the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development); an additional P50 million for the DENR's (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) clean air regulations implementation; and the P 20 million for the DENR’s climate change adaption program," he said.

Meanwhile, Drilon expressed satisfaction over the approval of the 2014 national budget, and called the hastening of its processing so that it will be effective as early as possible.

"We need now to continue on to the next steps of the budget process so that it will be ready to be in effectivity once 2014 starts, so that the services and programs of the government — now so engaged in the relief and rehabilitation of disaster-struck areas — can be promptly enabled," he said. (PNA)

FPV/LGI

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