Legarda: Bicam Approves Proposed 2016 National Budget

December 9, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda announced that the bicameral conference committee approved today the proposed Php3.002 Trillion national budget for 2016 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. Isidro Ungab, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, to their respective chambers during the Session today for ratification before the same is submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for his signature.

“We are confident that the President will be able to sign the proposed 2016 national budget into law before Christmas. In a way, this is our gift to the people as we have introduced allocations and provisions that will benefit those who most need government support,” said Legarda.

Among the highlights of the budget is the strong support for quality education with the increased allocation for the Department of Education (DepEd) to support the implementation of the K-12 program, particularly for the construction of classrooms and hiring of additional teachers. Total budget of Deped is Php411.905 Billion.

All state universities and colleges (SUCs) also received additional funding for the “TulongDunong” program, academic buildings, provision of equipment and other needed facilities. Total budget of SUCs is Php47 Billion.

For the first time, the national budget includes funding for the payment of the total administrative disability (TAD) pension for surviving spouses of deceased World War II veterans and partial payment for TAD pension for living post-war veterans who are at least 80 years of age as of 2016.

Meanwhile, under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) budget, apart from the National Greening Program, Congress is funding, for the first time, capacity building programs for the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, a long-time unfunded law.

Also included in the DENR budget is funding for the National Coral Restoration Program. Legarda said she introduced said funding because, as a maritime nation with 240 million hectares of marine area, the protection of marine ecosystems, primarily through massive coral restoration, should be a priority of government.

The bicam also approved general and special provisions introduced by Legarda in the 2016 national budget that would ensure the integration of disaster and climate resilience, environmental and heritage conservation, and sustainability in the programs of various government agencies.

Critical public infrastructure must be designed and built to be resilient to strong earthquakes, typhoons, flood and other extreme weather events. In retrofitting bridges and other public infrastructure, the government shall give priority to areas considered to be highly vulnerable to seismic activity.

Special provisions under the budgets for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) state that the two agencies must ensure that evacuation centers are built on safe sites and designed to withstand wind speed of three hundred (300) kilometers per hour and moderate seismic activity of at least 8.0 magnitude on the Richter scale; utilize natural ventilation and rainwater through the inclusion of a rainwater catchment system; and include facilities for the special needs of women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) and such other physical provisions guaranteeing a humane condition for evacuees.

The DepEd and SUCs must integrate the following in their respective curricula: environmental protection and awareness, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, indigenous knowledge systems pertaining to agriculture, environment and cultural heritage.

The DILG should embark on a massive information campaign for LGUs on the said issues; while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in the conduct of family development sessions among beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program, shall integrate in its program the protection of the environment, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the preservation of the indigenous culture of their locality. The DSWD shall also conduct capacity building programs to prepare its beneficiaries for the onset of natural hazards.

The Senator also introduced a provision under the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which tasks the agency to allocate funds “for road sharing activities such as the promotion of non-motorized transport, construction of pedestrian-friendly facilities and conduct of programs and projects that are geared towards improving people mobility.”

To strengthen promotion and preservation of Filipino heritage, funding is provided for cultural diplomacy programs of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) three major programs, namely: (1) Preservation and promotion of Filipino heritage through research, documentation, publication, exhibition and film production; (2) Scholarships and grants, such as funding for schools of living traditions; and, (3) Cultural and heritage mapping projects.

The budget also contains a special provision that prohibits the alteration, renovation or demolition of heritage buildings and open spaces declared by government or presumed to be important cultural properties, including the protection of the sight line with regard to built heritage, cultural properties and cultural landscapes, without approval of cultural agencies and consultation with stakeholders.

In undertaking major infrastructure projects, the concerned department or agency shall be responsible specifically in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges as they impact on heritage structures or aspects of heritage conservation pursuant to RA 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

Aside from Legarda and Ungab, panel members of the Senate and House of Representatives who were present at the conference are Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, and Representatives JC Rahman Nava, Eric Singson, Maria Zenaida Angping, Pryde Henry Teves, Magtanggol Gunigundo, Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Dakila Carlo Cua, and Romero Quimbo.