Legarda on SONA 2021: Numerous Achievements Address the Public’s Welfare

July 26, 2021

Three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker, Loren Legarda commended the various accomplishments of the Duterte Administration mentioned during the President’s 6th State of the Nation Address (SONA) held today.

“It was indeed an honor to contribute in the accomplishments of the present Administration particularly during my stint as then Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance in sustaining programs on health, education, agriculture, among many others. We have fully supported the government especially in pursuing policy reforms and priority programs for the people’s welfare,” Legarda said.

With her commitment to bring down the number of out-of-school youth further as well as uplift the quality of education, the free tuition in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) was implemented during the Academic Year 2017-2018, made possible through the intervention of Legarda, who pushed for the additional Php 8.3 Billion allocation under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) budget for 2017. Under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018, Legarda, co-author and co-sponsor of Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, also funded another Php 40 billion for SUCs and additional Php 250 million to fund the free tuition for medical students in SUCs. Legarda also supported the allocation of funds under the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in 2018 to install Wi-Fi in all SUCs in order to aid students with their school research and requirements.

“There is no greater investment than education to alleviate poverty and build a sustainable and progressive nation. We have to invest enough support for the education of our youth so that they can enjoy more opportunities to be employed as professionals and productive members of our society,” Legarda said.

During her chairmanship of the said Committee, Legarda also sponsored the allocation of additional Php 800 million under the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) for the year 2019 to provide a special allowance to public school teachers to be given yearly every World Teachers’ Day. In previous years, Legarda also sponsored the increase in the chalk or cash allowance for teachers under the annual budget. In 2015, the chalk allowance of teachers was raised from Php 1,000 to Php 1,500. It was increased to Php 2,500 and Php 3,500 during years 2017 and 2018, respectively. The increase in chalk allowance effectively enabled them to purchase more classroom supplies that aid them in teaching their students.

“We have to highlight the essential role our teachers play in the development of the youth and society and advance their social, economic, and professional status. It is only fair that the men and women behind our successes receive the benefits and incentives they deserve,” Legarda said.

Legarda also sponsored the augmentation of the PhilHealth budget by Php 3 billion under the 2017 GAA to ensure that health services are also extended to indigent non-member patients under a No Balance Billing policy. Legarda continued this under the 2018 budget for the same amount, and even included another Php 3.5 billion specifically for government employees in the executive department because the health of the public deserves to be on top of government priorities.

In 2018, Legarda supported the Php 2.5 billion funding for the Department of Education’s School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) and, in compliance with the provisions of RA 11037, or the Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which was approved into law in June 2018, Legarda sponsored the additional Php 1 billion for SBFP in 2019 GAA.

Under the 2017 General Appropriations Act, farmers received Php 2 billion-subsidy of irrigation service fees through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Php 2.6 billion under GAA 2018. In February of the same year, the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act, which Legarda co-authored, was passed into law.

“Irrigation subsidy has eased the burden of our farmers. We are an agricultural country and it is only proper that we continue extending the necessary assistance to our farmers, especially for irrigation services that are integral in maintaining our lands to be fertile to be able to increase agricultural productivity,” Legarda said.

Moreover, as the co-author of the Anti-Child Labor Act, Legarda supported the Php 85 million funding for DOLE Anti-Child Labor Program under the 2019 GAA, used for service fees payment of community facilitators.

To provide adequate funding to support additional allowance for the soldiers, policemen and other uniformed personnel, Legarda co-sponsored in the joint resolution increasing their base pay and allocated Php 62.8 billion under 2018 GAA. Under the same annual budget, Legarda also funded Php 1.647 billion for the unpaid pension to spouses of World War II veterans and Php 1.35 billion for the housing program of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Congress has an equally important role in ensuring that our country stays on its path to sustainability, security, and resilience. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the programs of various agencies of government are implemented well and would actually benefit the people. It is important that we work in synergy with the Administration for the betterment of the country to ensure that policies and the budget are in place to ultimately address the basic needs and protect the rights of our people,” Legarda said.

“Our country and all Filipinos certainly deserve more. We have achieved much, but much more needs to be done. We need to look at the quality of life that progress provides to the Filipino people for us to address the ills of society and free the people from poverty and vulnerability,” Legarda concluded.***