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Sponsorship Speech for Finance Subcommittee “C”

November 18, 2014

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA

Sponsorship Speech for Finance Subcommittee “C”

November 18, 2014 – Senate Session Hall

 

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

 

It is my privilege to sponsor the budget of agencies under Finance Subcommittee “C” consisting of the Judiciary, Commission on Audit (COA), Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of National Defense (DND), selected agencies under Other Executive Offices—the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Climate Change Commission (CCC), Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), Commission on the Filipino Language (CFL), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and special purpose funds namely, International Commitments Fund and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund.

 

My budget recommendations are rooted in the following realities:

  • We are living in a time of unprecedented regional and global integration and interdependence amidst the struggle to provide equal opportunities to all;
  • The lack of accountability and absence of justice breed threats to our security. We have seen good progress in these areas, but we need to do more by supporting our institutions so that they can more effectively protect vulnerable members of our communities and the public interest at large;
  • We live in a world with finite resources and we are guilty of overconsumptive and extractive practices, resulting to dire consequences to the sustainability of our nation;
  • It is estimated that 10 million Filipinos are working or residing in more than 100 countries. These present significant opportunities in the area of economic and cultural diplomacy;
  • The march of technology is irreversible and we have to improve governance by equipping our agencies with the wherewithal to efficiently discharge their functions. Disaster risk reduction capabilities can benefit tremendously from this.

 

These realities are not exclusive.  There are many more that were considered.

 

Many times I have shared with everyone in this august chamber the inspiring concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Anchored on the four pillars of good governance; equitable, sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth; environmental protection; and cultural preservation, it measures not only the development of a country as a whole but also the happiness and well-being of the people.

 

It is time we adopt the GNH concept and start living in harmony with our environment and remain faithful to our duty as stewards of nature.

 

Your Finance Subcommittee “C”, which I chair, was guided by these key principles in considering the budgets of the agencies under our review.

 

Mr. President,

 

Transparency and accountability are two key elements of good governance. In support of the Judiciary’s fair, quality and speedy distribution of justice; the COA’s mission to promote the people’s trust in government by upholding public accountability; the Ombudsman’s duty to ensure integrity, efficiency and high ethical standards in public service; and the DOJ’s mandate to uphold the rule of law by serving as the principal law agency of government, we propose the following budget:

 

  • For the Judiciary, the proposed budget is Twenty Billion Two Hundred Sixty Million Seven Hundred Eight-Two Thousand Pesos (Php20,260,782,000).

 

The Supreme Court has a proposed budget of Eighteen Billion Ninety Three Million Three Hundred Seventy-Nine Thousand Pesos (Php18,093,379,000), which includes additional funding for IT Infrastructure for the roll-out of the e-courts nationwide, network security and connectivity of e-courts, and the implementation of the small claims case monitoring system.

 

  • For COA, the proposed budget is Seven Billion Seven Hundred Fifty-Four Million Two Hundred Thirty-Eight Thousand Pesos (Php7,754,238,000).

 

It is worthy to note that the Commission has taken initiatives on environmental accounting. In their assessment of the disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) practices in the country, the COA’s verdict was clear – much remains to be done in the area of DRRM.  Essential to this is the adoption of a  “preventive” mindset that ensures that building standards are strictly enforced.

 

  • For the Office of the Ombudsman, the proposed budget is One Billion Eight Hundred Twenty-One Million Six Hundred Ninety-Four Thousand Pesos (Php1,821,694,000).

 

The Ombudsman is committed to improving corruption prevention and control, but support is undeniably needed so that it can widen the reach of its independent, broad-based anti-corruption reach.

 

Thus, we support the provision allowing the Office of the Ombudsman to use the income it generates from fees collected by it.

 

Innovative efforts of the Ombudsman as an environmental crusader needs further support. Under the auspices of the Environmental Ombudsman, the “Solid Waste Management Law Voluntary Compliance Assessment and Promotion Program” was launched in 2013 to recognize local government units (LGUs) that have complied with the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act and urge voluntary compliance of other LGUs. We hope that this program would help lead to 100% compliance with the ESWM Law.

 

  • For the DOJ, the proposed budget is Eleven Billion Two Hundred Twenty-Five Million Five Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php11,225,550,000).

 

The DOJ has shown improvements in the number of cases resolved. Despite the continuously growing investigation caseload of prosecutors nationwide, disposition rate or percentage of cases resolved improved from 74.6% in 2010 to 78.3% in 2013. Meanwhile, coverage of the witness protection program (WPP) increased by 18% and conviction rate for cases with WPP-covered witnesses was 92.6% on the average for the period 2011 to 2013.  This is 14% higher than the 78.9% in 2010.

 

Progress indicators such as these need to be boosted through budget support.

 

Under the DOJ’s budget, we propose that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) be authorized to use 20% of their income derived from collection of immigration fees and clearance fees, respectively, to augment  funds for maintenance and other operating requirements and capital outlays.

 

Mr. President,

 

The Finance Subcommittee “C” supports the Department of Foreign Affairs’ proposed budget of Twelve Billion Eight Hundred Sixty-Nine Million Eight Hundred Ninety-Four Thousand Pesos (Php12,869,894,000) to enable it to discharge its functions anchored on the three pillars of foreign policy, namely, the preservation and enhancement of  national security; promotion and attainment of economic security; and  protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of Filipinos overseas.

 

The foreign service is the country’s first line of defense in the global arena.

 

The dramatic rise in the number of conflicts, disasters and other emergencies in various parts of the world continue to keep the men and women in our posts overseas on their toes twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  Geopolitical, economic and security realities require a strong DFA that is fully supported in order that it may live up to its role as the prime agency of the government responsible for the pursuit of the country’s foreign policy – taking care not only of our relations with other countries, but also serving as the good brother or sister of every overseas Filipino.

 

Next year, the Philippines will host the APEC, the premier economic forum in the Asia-Pacific region which provides a platform for deeper economic engagements with 21 member-economies. As co-chair of the National Organizing Council and as APEC National Secretariat, the DFA will help shepherd the process of advancing the country’s development goals and objectives in this regional arena.  We last hosted APEC 18 years ago and we did very well.  It is time to show to the rest of the world once again that we are back in business and are ready to shepherd the 21 economies of APEC towards a more inclusive and resilient economic community.

 

Moreover, with the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community by December 2015, the DFA is at the forefront of pursuing joint initiatives with development partners in preparing our micro, small and medium enterprises.

 

The DFA is also committed to strengthen cultural diplomacy with its role in the preparation for the Philippines’ return to the Venice Art Biennale 2015 after a 50-year hiatus.

 

Meanwhile, the protection of Philippine territorial integrity and national sovereignty is a crucial concern for the DFA, considering territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The Department aims to secure further international support for the Philippines’ positions on the WPS issue and improve capacity-building in the field of maritime and territorial concerns.

 

In relation to this, we must likewise strengthen the capability of our security forces to defend our territories. Thus, the continuing modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should be sufficiently supported and funded without delay to ensure that they are able and ready to protect our country and our citizens.

 

We support the Department of National Defense’s (DND) proposed budget of Ninety-Nine Billion Eight Hundred Thirty-One Million Six Hundred Thirty-Nine Thousand Pesos (Php99,831,639,000).

 

To pursue its mandate, the DND has set six program thrusts for 2015, namely: continue to upgrade the capability of the AFP; support national development; build civil defense capability; promote veterans’ and retirees’ welfare; strengthen security alliances and partnerships; and continue reforms in the defense establishment.

 

The DND plays a key role in building the resilience of our communities. Our soldiers play an important role in rescue and relief efforts, as well as in environmental protection activities.

 

It is important to note that apart from the NDRRMC’s budget under the DND, there is a special purpose fund, the NDRRM Fund, previously referred to as the Calamity Fund, in the amount of 14 Billion Pesos. We need to use this judiciously for disaster risk reduction and resilience building programs to ensure safer communities.

 

Part of effective DRRM is ensuring that the most vulnerable sectors are likewise protected and are part of the planning. Our indigenous peoples (IPs) are among the most vulnerable to disasters and climate change despite the fact that they are the ones who lead sustainable lifestyles and environmental conservation practices.

 

The NCIP needs the budgetary support to strengthen programs that protect the interests and address the concerns of our IPs. Under the proposed NCIP budget of Seven Hundred Seventy-Four Million Eight Hundred Twenty-Three Thousand Pesos (Php774,823,000), we have allocated Two Million Pesos for the conduct of a National IP Summit that will serve as a venue for our IPs to raise their concerns and to be updated on the programs of government for indigenous cultural communities (ICCs).

 

Moreover, this proposed budget will support programs that are not only focused on cultural and heritage preservation and promotion, but would also provide new opportunities for livelihood and employment for our IPs.

 

The NCCA, in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), has started the integration of Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) into the curriculum of schools under DepEd in areas where the SLTs exist to ensure continuity of cultural traditions. For instance, in Abra, the tradition of Tabungaw-making is integrated in the curriculum of the Abra National High School.

 

This is one of the programs that the NCCA would continue to fund through its 2015 proposed budget worth Thirty Seven Million Six Hundred Sixty Five Thousand Pesos (Php37,665,000).

 

We advocate for enhanced historical and cultural preservation programs by providing adequate funding for the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the National Library, and the National Archives.

 

Mr. President, for other executive offices under Finance Subcommittee “C”, the following budget allocations have been proposed:

  • Seventeen Million Six Hundred Thirteen Thousand Pesos  (Php17,613,000) for the Anti-Money Laundering Council;
  • Seventy Eight Million Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php78,250,000) for the Climate Change Commission;
  • One Hundred Sixty-Eight Million Seven Hundred Seventy-Eight Thousand Pesos (Php168,778,000) for the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission; and,
  • Five Hundred Thirty Million Thirty Thousand Pesos (Php530,030,000) for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

 

Furthermore, Subcommittee “C” allocated Ten Billion Seven Hundred Twenty-Four Million Six Hundred Forty-Eight Thousand Pesos (Php10,724,648,000) for the International Commitments Fund.

 

For the Cultural Center of the Philippines, a budget worth Two Hundred Eight Million Pesos (Php208,000,000) is being proposed. This includes 15 Million Pesos for the 2015 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, which is an important program that supports the work of independent Filipino filmmakers and invigorates Philippine filmmaking.

 

Mr. President, we regard as vital the strengthened protection of our environment and biodiversity. Thus, we propose the inclusion of a provision that would prevent major infrastructure and development projects, as well as cutting of trees, in the areas covered by the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), critical habitats and other conservation areas.

 

In closing, I wish to stress that as we work on the 2015 national budget, we should keep in mind that we fund programs not only for economic development but also for the growth of every citizen; not only to create progressive communities but also to build resilience; not only to reduce poverty but also to prevent loss of biodiversity; and not only to have a brighter future but also to preserve our history and culture.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.