Senate Ratifies Bicam Report on Proposed 2016 Nat’l Budget

December 14, 2015

The Senate unanimously ratified today the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Php3.002 Trillion national budget for 2016.

Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, thanked the vice chairpersons of the Committee and other senators for their support in the timely passage of the proposed 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

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.

All state universities and colleges (SUCs) also received additional funding for the “Tulong Dunong” program, academic buildings, provision of equipment and other needed facilities.

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 the construction of green and resilient evacuation centers in every region in the country.

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.

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, without approval of cultural agencies and consultation with stakeholders.