House okays P1.541-T budget on second reading

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE House of Representatives yesterday dawn approved on second reading President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposed P1.541-trillion budget for 2010, subject to individual amendments after two weeks of marathon plenary sessions.

Before Congress starts its Halloween recess, lawmakers passed the budget through viva voce voting at 2:42 yesterday morning and prepare for third and final reading approval when session resumes on Nov. 9, according to a text message sent to reporters by Citizens Battle Against Corruption Rep. Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva said the approval was made amid their calls to thoroughly review the budget to realign some funds to help the victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that flooded Metro Manila, parts of Southern Luzon and caused landslides in Northern Luzon provinces.

The House of Representatives and the Senate had earlier approved a separate P12-billion calamity fund for the rehabilitation of all areas in the country hit by natural calamities, including Frank in 2001.

The 2010 budget under committee report No. 2415 is P115 billion or 8 percent higher than the P1.426 trillion budget in 2009.

The 10 departments with the biggest budgets are: education, P172.8 billion; public works, with P105.2 billion; interior which includes the PNP, P65.4 billion; defense, P62.7 billion; agriculture, P37.8 billion; health, P28.5 billion; agrarian reform, P19.7 billion; social welfare, P16.5 billion; judiciary, P13 billion; and foreign affairs, P12.5 billion.

The 2010 budget bill also contains P10.6 billion for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the 2010 elections.

Of the P864 billion MOOE or operating expenses, P479.9 billion or one-third is earmarked for social services, including P235 billion or education and manpower and P101 billion for social security and welfare. A total of P10 billion was also allocated for direct cash transfer to 700,000 poor families.

Economic services, which cover agriculture and environment, are allotted P356 billion, defense P73.6 billion, and general public services P275.1 billion.

Salaries, pensions and premium contributions for government personnel will get P494 billion next year, up from P423 billion this year.

The 15.2 percent hike in payroll is due to the passage of the Salary Standardization Law III which took effect June and which will require P68.4 billion on its second year of implementation in 2010.

Capital outlays (CO), which include portions of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for local governments was allotted P235 billion next year.

Of the infrastructure budget, P72 billion will be funneled to roads and bridges, P5.8 billion to new school buildings, P27.6 billion to farm infrastructures, and P1.5 billion to bring clean water to poor communities.

It is expected to reach a deficit of P233.4 billion, which is 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) as compared to 3.2 percent in 2009.