By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House of Representatives is eyeing at least “five” realignments in the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020, not only to benefit the agriculture sector, but also the energy, education, and health sectors.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said they will likely augment next year’s budgetary allocations of the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Agriculture (DA).
Aside from increasing the funds of the National Food Authority’s (NFA) to purchase palay (unhusked rice) from the current proposed amount of P7 billion to at least P10 billion and pouring out additional funds for programs on farming, Cayetano said they are eyeing to allocate bigger funding for the government’s rural electrification program.
“We ask the Department of Energy to further brief us on the electrification. I don’t think may dahilan in this modern age na may mga lugar pa sa Pilipinas na walang kuryente (I don’t think there is a reason in this modern age that there are areas in the Philippines that are not electrified),” Cayetano said.
“We are talking about, in general, dapat walang municipality at barangay na hindi energized (that no municipality and barangay should not be energized). Ang pondo for that ata ngayon ay P1 billion. So we are asking magkano to complete it in two or three years kung hindi man one year (The fund for that now is P1 billion. So we are asking how much to complete it in two or three years or if not, one year),” he said.
National Electrification Administration (NEA) Administrator Edgardo Masongsong had relayed to the House Committee on Appropriations that the government’s electrification projects, including the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP), will receive P1.5 billion in the NEA’s proposed budget for next year.
The NEA official said bulk of the P1.531-billion national government will finance the continued implementation of the SEP Phase II, estimated at P1.162 billion.
With such funding, the NEA is targeting to energize 775 sites and electrify 38 local government unit/non-government organizations’ resettlement sites.
Cayetano said the realignments will be made to ensure the DepEd’s full implementation of the K to 12 program.
“Maraming katanungan ang mga kongresista bakit ang laki ng cut ng classrooms, eh sabi nila absorptive capacity. We are looking at that (Many of the congressmen were asking why there is a big cut in classrooms, they said, absorptive capacity),” he said.
He said they are also seeking to increase the proposed P88-billion budget of the Department of Health (DOH).
“We are looking at the primary healthcare system. We are asking the DOH that of the myriads of problems on health being faced by the country, which should be prioritized and which programs are the most effective, if the universal health care program cannot be implemented nationwide, pilot projects can be implemented,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier told a budget hearing that there would be no nationwide implementation of Universal Health Care (UHC) law next year due to budget constraints and lack of readiness. He said their proposed appropriations are “insufficient” to cover the entire cost of healthcare in the country, particularly for poor Filipinos.
The UHC was signed into law by President Duterte on February 20, 2019.
Duque said they have identified certain provinces that would serve as a model for the implementation of the various components of Republic Act No. 11223.
Cayetano said there will be “three to four minimal changes” before the House of Representatives votes on the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on second reading on Friday, Sept. 20.
He said the “major changes” will be made during the bicameral conference panel deliberations which are being eyed from November 25 to December.
“None of these will be in the category of pork or lump sums na paghahatian ng mga congresista (that will be divided among the congressmen),” he said.
“There will be no post budget enactment intervention by any members of congress, so the no pork, no parking, no delay [policy], that’s our mantra,” he reassured.