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Bicam Approves Proposed 2017 National Budget

December 13, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda announced that the bicameral conference committee approved today the proposed P3.350 trillion national budget for 2017 following the consolidation of the respective versions of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The bicam report will be presented by Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Rep. Karlo Nograles, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, to their respective chambers during the session today for ratification before the same is submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.

“This is a budget that is in line with the President’s 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda and we ensured that it funds the necessary services needed by our citizens, such as universal healthcare, free tuition for all in state universities and colleges (SUCs), and additional funds for social services. We also allocated funds for free irrigation, additional funds for prisoners’ subsistence allowance, pension for Post World War II veterans and centenarians, among others,” said Legarda.

Among the highlights of the budget is the strong support for education with the increased budget worth P8 billion for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) so that all college students enrolled in any SUC in the country will not have to pay for their tuition fee.

The budget for SUCs was also increased to provide additional funds for scholarship and capital outlay for all SUCs; while increased allocation for the Department of Education (DepEd) is intended for site development of public schools and to increase teachers’ cash or chalk allowance from P1,500 to P2,500, which they use to purchase classroom supplies like chalk, erasers and forms.

For healthcare, P3 billion increase in the PhilHealth was approved so that all Filipinos will now be covered by the universal healthcare program, while indigent patients will not have to pay for anything in government hospitals under the No Balance Billing (NBB) policy.

The bicam also approved additional funds for the Department of Health (DOH) worth P1.521 billion for the Doctors to the Barrio program, construction of additional health facilities, and medical assistance to indigent patients; as well as the P2.646 billion allocation for the establishment of DOH-Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers in regions which do not have such facility.

Under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P100 million will be granted to centenarians and additional funding is provided for the supplemental feeding program. Moreover, all 4.4 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will now be entitled to a rice allowance in the form of cash grants.

Under the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) budget, the amount of P2 billion is provided to subsidize irrigation fees that farmers have long been shouldering.

For livelihood and microenterprises support, additional P1 billion is allocated under the Small Business Corporation so it can provide loans at almost no interest to microenterprises; additional funds were also provided for various programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) including Employment Facilitation and Capacity Building Services.

Under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Congress approved funds for the Training for Work Scholarship Program/Livelihood, as well as Training Provision for Drug Dependents.

For the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), additional funds were provided for training and equipment of firefighters, support to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) fight against illegal drugs, increased subsistence allowance of prisoners and rehabilitation and construction of jail facilities.

Additional funds were also allocated to the Department of National Defense (DND) to fund activities to effectively defend the country from internal and external threats, as well as to fund programs such as the repair of Veterans Center, expanded veterans hospitalization program, and construction of cadet barracks.

The bicam also approved allocation for the combat and incentive pay of the military and police worth P12.1 billion, as well as funding for the Capability Enhancement Program of the PNP.

For environment and resilience programs, funds under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were allocated for restoration of mangroves, which are effective buffers against storm surge and tsunami. In implementing the National Greening Program (NGP), the DENR should use planting materials that are responsive to the needs of the communities such as fruit-bearing trees, bamboo, coconut trees, and trees that are important for traditional use and livelihood of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Legarda also ensured continued support for heritage, arts and culture under the 2017 national budget.

“This is a pro-people budget—one that will be felt by those at the grassroots as it prioritizes rural development and social services. But these funds must be spent judiciously and expeditiously. I urge agencies of government to spend these resources well and address the challenges that lead to underspending or low absorptive capacity,” Legarda concluded.