What to do with the budget

December 5, 2009

Vice – Chairperson, Sub-Committee D
Committee on Finance
Mr. President, as Vice-Chairperson for Senate Finance Sub-committee D, I have the honor and privilege to co-sponsor and report for the consideration of this august chamber, the proposed budget of the departments and agencies within the coverage of the sub-committee. These are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, the Office of Muslim Affairs, and the National Youth Commission.
The 1.54-trillion budget for next year was formulated by the Executive Department before extreme weather events hit our country, killed hundreds of our people, destroyed millions worth of properties and infrastructure, and devastated our people’s main sources of livelihood. The 2010 General Appropriations Act must provide for the implementation of environment protection programs that will help our local communities prevent and prepare for potential risks caused by climate change.
Mr. President, my appeal for a higher budget for the Department Environment and Natural Resources among others is mainly due to the lessons realized from recent disasters our people have experienced.
Increases were called for to make the budget climate-sensitive. Environmental degradation, climate change, and non-compliance to major environmental laws have been proven to be major contributors to these recent disasters.
For our continuously dwindling forests, we have allotted 100 million pesos for the acquisition of Forest Protection Equipment, and 50 million pesos specifically for the Vulnerability assessment of rare, threatened, and endangered species. We have also allotted 35 million pesos for provisions to defray expenses against illegal environmental and antural resources activities; and for livelihood programs through agroforestry and use of agricultural waste, we have allotted P 202,500,000. Finally, for us to better appraise the nation of the alarming state of Philippine forests, we have provided 50 million pesos for the Mapping of Forest Cover.
For a program called Kabuhayan at Edukasyon para sa IPs, we have allotted P 107, 295,000. We will finance livelihood programs that are adaptable to the resources available in IP groups’ respective areas and to their culture as well. We will fund the pilot testing of an indigenized curriculum that is vital to the concretization of education’s role to the empowerment, development and protection of IPs.
Mr. President, the highlight of my term as chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization or COCAFM is the faithful observance of the intent of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act or AFMA. Hence, starting last June, the COCAFM called all the AFMA-implementing departments in order to rectify the structure of the AFMA budget—which should be defined as the totality of the DA budget and the budget for AFMA of all other AFMA-implementing departments.
To realize the goals of AFMA such as food security, poverty alleviation, global competitiveness, sustainable development and people empowerment, we should ensure that our limited resources are allocated rationally. We should ensure that the agriculture and fishery budget should go to the three basic functions such as Research and Development, Extension and Regulatory Services.
A long-delayed reform is to devolve extension resources to the local government because as we know while we devolved the extension personnel, the national government withheld the wherewithals for the local extension personnel to assist the farmers and fisherfolk effectively.
During the budget hearing for the Department of Agriculture, the DA Secretary agreed that the chair of the Agriculture Committee and Senate Finance Vice Chair shall recast the budget of the Department for 2010 according to AFMA.
Hence, in the budget of the Department of Agriculture we provided that the commodity programs now lodged in the Office of the Secretary be rationalized according to the structural intent of AFMA as the Department revise its work and financial plan in 2010. The revision of the commodity budgets under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program shall be deliberated on by the Council on Extension and Research and Development for Agriculture and Fisheries (CERDAF) based on the Research and Development Agenda and the National Extension Agenda and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan for 2010-2014. As these documents are still being prepared, Mr. President, your Sub-Committee on Finance did not touch the amounts submitted by the Lower House for the commodity programs. However, we enumerated the key activities within the National Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Program as well as the Research and Development Program to be covered by the amounts to ensure that the intent of AFMA on devolution of extension services is taken care of.
The above amendments shall also heed the clamor of farmers to allow them to produce rice for the country’s consumption and buffer stock and reduce food importation to alleviate poverty in the countryside and achieve national food security. Capacity building for climate change mitigation and adaptation for LGU extension personnel is recommended in view of the need to effect risk reduction in the agriculture and fishery sector resulting from erratic weather changes.
The Basic Needs Program under the AFMA should be provided for upon the identification of the Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZs) to ensure that the basic needs of farmers and fisherfolk in prime agriculture and fisherfolk areas are taken care of, their organizations are effectively operational and empowered in the implementation of Model Farms that depend on the integration of their landholdings, cooperative utilization of production and post-production machineries and other inputs towards the achievement of economies of scale.
The functional structure of the budget as well as other provisions of AFMA in regard to planning, programming, budgeting and project implementation shall be implemented in full during Budget Year 2011 as agreed upon during the series of consultations conducted by COCAFM with the DA and all other AFMA-implementing departments/agencies as well as the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management.
On health, Mr. President, it is hoped that the 2010 national budget would provide more efficient health services for our people, particularly hospitals and other health facilities. The Subcommittee strove to make good on its promise of being more vigorous in looking after the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers and their families by allocating five million pesos for an OFW Wing in the form of medical assistance available in each of four hospitals, namely, East Avenue Medical Center in the National Capital Region, Davao Regional Hospital in Mindanao, and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital, both in the Visayas.
Child mortality remains high. The World Health Organization, in a report it released this year, strongly recommended that the rotavirus vaccination must be included in the National Immunization Program because diarrhea is the third leading cause of illness for Filipino children. For the Rota-virus Vaccination Program for one-year old children belonging to indigent families, the amount of 200 million was allotted.
In order to help our local communities prevent and prepare for potential risks and to instill environmental consciousness among the Filipino youth, there must be a budget for green jobs and resilient livelihoods. These jobs would also serve to offer diversified income opportunities to the most vulnerable populations to climate change in the rural areas. The subcommittee amended the budget of the National Youth Council by adding thereto a fund of 12 million pesos for the program “Green Jobs for Out of School Youth”.
The 2010 budget must not be a maintenance budget. It must be instrumental in financing our climate change work to save lives and livelihoods. The 2010 budget will reveal if our leaders and decision-makers in the government have learned to finally mainstream climate change in the budgeting process. It is high time for this nation, its leaders and people to wake up from the country’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change.
In summary, Mr. President, after much study and review, your Sub-committee D submits the following budget for the departments under its jurisdiction:
For the Department of Agriculture, 37,261,110,000.00 pesos. For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 11,097,229,000.00 pesos. For the Department of Health, 28,120,123.00 pesos. For the National Youth Commission, 54,995,000.00 pesos. For the Office of Muslim Affairs, 289,621,000.00 pesos. And for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 9,435,089.00 pesos.
We have also approved the allotment of Special Purpose Funds in the amount of 9,551,721,000.00 pesos for the Department of Agriculture and 1,160,760.00 pesos for the department of Health as well as 5,070, 000.00 on as Premium Subsidy for Indigents under the National Health Internal Revenue Allotment.
I join the distinguished Chairman of the Committee on Finance in endorsing the approval of this august chamber of House Bill No. 6767 under Committee Report No. 767, the General Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2010, and the amendments introduced by your Committee on Finance.