By Ben Rosario
Davao City Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, called for the immediate approval of the proposed P4.1 trillion “People’s Budget” but stressed that lawmakers must not sacrifice the “objective scrutiny of all its provisions.”
At the launch of the plenary debates Tuesday night, Ungab’s committee batted for education as the top priority in the proposed 2020 national budget.
Ungab said the House panel did observe the constitutional mandate by granting the education sector a P673-billion allocation for 2020 to be distributed to the Department of Education, P551.7 billion; state universities and colleges, P68.5 billion, Commission on Higher Education, P40.8 billion; and Technology and Skills Development Authority, P12 billion.
The prioritization of budgetary allocations followed the manner of significance sought by the Duterte administration.
To continue the President’s “Build, Build, Build” program, the Lower House proposed P534.3 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of National Defense followed with P238 billion; P195 billion and P189 billion, respectively.
The next five include the Department of Health, P166.5 billion; Department of Transportation, P147; Department of Agriculture, P93.1 billion; Judiciary, P38.7 billion and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P26.4 billion.
“The expenditure program for 2020 continues to give priority to social and economic services in support of programs that seek to alleviate poverty, build up capital, and develop infrastructure to sustain the country’s economic growth,” said Ungab.
He revealed that banner programs for social protection will continue to get bigger slices with the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, P108. 8 billion; Unconditional Cash Transfer, P36.5 billion, and National Health Insurance Program, P67.4 billion.
However, the progressive Makabayan bloc criticized the Duterte administration’s proposed allocation for 2020, saying that instead of progress, it will promote “greater inequality, concentrating massive wealth in the hands of a few while consigning millions of Filipinos to poverty, unemployment, and inadequate and unaffordable basic services.”
“The proposed budget is increasingly being funded by regressive taxes brought about by the Duterte administration’s tax reform program, with an increasing share of government revenues coming from taxes on consumption and other indirect taxes, while direct taxes on income are reduced,” said the Makabayan bloc in a statement read by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“It seems that the national budget is geared to a Kill, Kill, Kill program because the Duterte administration’s definition of peace is the peace of the grave, and the silence of repression,” the group stated.
The seven congressmen representing Gabriela, ACT Teachers, Kabataan, and Bayan Muna partylists organizations noted that the President’s confidential and intelligence funds increased with an allocation of P4.25 billion, aside from the intelligence and counter-intelligence operations of the Philippine National Police, P1.1 billion.
In her co-sponsorship speech, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, senior vice-chairperson of the Appropriations panel, said swift approval of the budget “will send a clear and positive signal to the international community that the Philippines remains firm and deliberate in pursuing the path of reform.
“It would be supportive of the positive credit ratings our country has garnered most importantly, this would help convince our people that they remain the center and totality of our efforts,” said Ermita-Buhain.