Senate starts plenary debates on PHP3.002T national budget for 2016

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Nov. 23 (PNA) –- After giving way to the hosting of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit last week, the Senate returned to work on Monday to start debates on the proposed PHP3.002 trillion national budget for 2016.

Senate finance committee chairman Loren Legarda said the Senate would like to leave a legacy budget that is socially inclusive, gender sensitive, climate adaptive, attuned towards reducing disaster risks, and that mainstreams culture and heritage.

”Foremost, I wish to dedicate this budget to all the victims and survivors of disasters, whether caused by natural hazards, such as typhoons Yolanda and Lando, among many others, or man-made tragedies such as the Zamboanga siege and the abuse and displacement of our Lumads,” Legarda said in her sponsorship speech on the 2016 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

”We need a budget that not only responds to the basic needs of our citizens but also proactively addresses the risks that threaten the very basic needs we aim to provide our people. We need a budget that reduces and manages existing risks and prevents the creation of new risks,” she added.

Under the new appropriations of the GAB, Legarda said a total of PHP87.93 billion have been allotted for programs, projects and activities for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) lodged in different government agencies.

”This is still a small percentage, an indication that we have not totally mainstreamed disaster resilience and climate adaptation in government programs. Thus, we have included special provisions that will integrate DRR and CCAM in the programs of government,” Legarda said.

Legarda said special provisions have been included in the budget to ensure the construction of safe and resilient infrastructure projects, which will have a total budget of PHP766.3 billion.

The lady senator said the Senate has proposed new appropriations worth PHP2.118 trillion in unprogrammed funds.

As mandated by the Constitution, the Department of Education (DepEd) will receive the highest budget worth PHP411.5 billion, a 15 percent higher compared to 2015 due to the K-12 program.

Legarda said the national budget is also the country’s tool to translate the international economic and trade agreements signed in the recently-concluded APEC and ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur “to measurable gains.”

”It is time that we empower those who are traditionally left behind. It is time that we channel our resources to programs that will ensure sustainability so that we leave our children a livable country that they deserve,” Legarda said.

Senator Ralph Recto, vice chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the 2016 GAB is a budget of increases, noting the 41 percent hike in the Department of Health (DOH)’s budget from PHP87.8 billion to PHP124.2 next year.

Recto said PHP57.9 billion of the national budget will go to the first tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4 next year.

To improve the capability of the military, some PHP25 billion will be allocated for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

An amount of PHP210 million has been allocated to support programs for farmers, fisherfolks, rural livelihood and small entrepreneurs to promote inclusive growth. The amount does not include PHP9.9 billion for loans for qualified farmers, fisherfolks and micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

In social services, the allocation for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program for 2016 is worth PHP62.67 billion that will support 4.62 million family beneficiaries.

To ensure the swift dispensation and resolution of court cases, the government has increased the judiciary budget of PHP26.68 billion for 2016 or 27 percent higher than the 2015 allocation.

In 2016, Recto said taxpayers will remit PHP2.025 trillion to the Bureau of International Revenue, while Bureau of Customs will try to collect PHP498.7 billion.

”Individual income taxpayers will contribute PHP439.3 billion. Companies and enterprises will add PHP736.6 billion,” he said in his own sponsorship speech.

To make sure the proposed 2016 national budget will be passed before the Christmas break, the Senate will hold morning and afternoon sessions exclusively for the budget plenary debates. (PNA)