By Ben Rosario and Ellson Quismorio
The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday the proposed R3.757- trillion national budget for 2019.
The 2019 allocation earmarked R659.3 billion for the education sector – R528.8 billion for the department of Education; R65.2 billion for State Colleges and Universities; R50.5 billion for the Commission on Higher Education; and R14.8 billion for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The Department of Public Works and Highways will receive the second highest allocation with R555.7 billion, which represents an increase of 25.8 percent or R113.9 billion compared to its R441.8 billion budget in 2018.
On the other hand, The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will receive the third largest appropriation in 2019 with R225.6 billion. This is 30.9 percent or R53.2 billion more than its 2018 funding of R172.4 billion.
The other top recipients shall be the Department of National Defense (DND), R183.4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), R173.3 billion; Department of Health (DOH), R141.2 billion, which includes R67.4 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC); Department of Transportation (DOTr), R141.4 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), R76.1 billion; the Judiciary with R37.3 billion; and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), R32.3 billion.
The infrastructure program for 2019, which shall receive an appropriation of R909.7 billion, will fuel the administration’s massive Build, Build, Build Program.
Voting 196 in favor and eight against, the Lower House passed the funding measure as senators started pummelling the chamber with accusations that the delay in approval is being allegedly caused by congressional insertions.
But in a press conference shortly before Tuesday’s plenary session that saw the budget’s passage, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. revealed that the Executive branch had been actively giving input on House Bill (HB) No. 8169.
The 2019 budget contained what could be described as last minute requests of President Duterte.
“We are shifting to cash-based budgeting;it is something new… so we’re swamped by a very unusual number of requests coming from the Executive,
even coming from the President himself. May mga request na gustong ilagay doon sa version ng House (He has requests that he wants included in the House version of the law),” Andaya told reporters.
He said the nature of these requests is promises made by President Duterte when he goes around the country to press the flesh with his fellow Filipinos.
“(The President) has been going around various military camps, yung mga promises niya on housing and public works na naipapangako niya kapag umiikot siya (he makes promises on housing and public works whenever he makes his rounds),” said Andaya, who represents Camarines Sur’s 1st District.
The Majority Leader noted that Duterte has never stopped going around the country even after the proposed 2019 budget was submitted to Congress in July 2018.
“Yung mga pinupuntahan niyang lugar, mga kalye na kailangan niyang ayusin (There are roads that need to be fixed in the areas he visits). Until now, we’re still receiving requests because he’s been going around very often,” said Andaya.
Pressed for figures, Andaya said that “around R2 billion” had been requested by the Chief Executive for housing for military personnel.
He said that members of the Cabinet have also made requests.
Asked if a request from the Executive branch had been turned down, Andaya answered: “Wala namang hindi napagbigyan, yung sa amounts lang (There was no rejected request, but the amounts had to be adjusted).”
Andaya said the House “is tying [it’s] best to keep the budget in line with the vision of the President.”
Approval of the 2019 budget came over a month after the House leadership discovered some R52 billion “parked porked barrel” insertions. The amount was quickly re-aligned to anti-poor and public health programs of the Duterte government.
The alleged “parked porked barrel” were re-aligned to the following programs:
R5 billion as additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the rehabilitation of areas badly hit by typhoon Ompong, especially Cagayan Valley; R3 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH) which was reduced at R50 million; R3 billion for the DOH’s Health Human Resources Development “to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, and doctors and dentists as well”; R1.2 billion for the Capital Outlay of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); R3 billion for Technical-Vocational Laboratories under the Department of Education; R11 billion for roads to decongest traffic in urban areas; R10 billion for roads for identified tourism areas; another R10 billion for roads to trade areas, economic zones, livelihood centers and markets; and R5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) farm-to-market roads (FMRs).