By Mario Casayuran
As the plenary debate on the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget is scheduled to end next week, the Senate is making sure that the new laws signed by President Duterte will be funded.
This was the assurance given by Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, who said the laws would be useless unless they are given the appropriate budget for their implementation.
Angara said that among these new laws was Republic Act 11194, or the Conservation of the Gabaldon School Buildings Act, which was signed by President Duterte last January.
In the committee report on the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) submitted by Angara, the Senate provided P616 million for the implementation of the law, which would be lodged under the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd).
For 2019, the DepEd received P2.06 billion for the implementation of RA 11194, but for the proposed 2020 national budget, the Executive branch gave the agency a mere P383.9 million.
Angara stressed that these structures are considered part of Filipino heritage.
‘’They represent the roots of the public school system in the country. We must strive to preserve these buildings for the next generations to see and appreciate,” he said.
During the American occupation between 1907 and 1946, around 3,000 Gabaldon school buildings were constructed across the country.
Angara lamented that there are now a little over 1,400 of these structures left standing due to years of neglect, decay and even demolition.
He said the 2020 national budget would also contain an allocation of P1 billion for the implementation of Republic Act 11230 or the Tulong Trabaho Act, which was signed on February this year.
Under the law, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will provide free access to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) particularly to out-of-school youth and the unemployed.
The law provides for the establishment of a Tulong Trabaho Fund, which will finance the free training fees and additional financial aid such as transportation allowances for the qualified beneficiaries enrolling in selected training programs.
“Daan-daan, kung hindi libu-libo na, ang nagtagumpay sa tulong ng TESDA kaya nararapat lang natin na suportahan ang batas na ito,” Angara said. (We need to support this law as hundreds have succeeded in life all because of TESDA.)
For Republic Act 11459, or the Judges-at-Large Act, that was signed in August this year, Angara said that funding would be provided for the creation of 50 new judges-at-large positions—30 in the regional trial courts and 20 in the metropolitan trial courts.
The funding will be part of the P2.5 billion that was added to the budget of the judiciary.
“Justice delayed is justice denied so when we introduced this measure in the 17th Congress, our aim was to help clear up the court dockets by providing more judges to hear the cases,” he said. Angara is the principal author of the law.
Based on a study by the National Statistical Coordination Board, between the period of 2005 and 2010, the lower courts had an annual average load of 1,059,484 cases.
The Senate body has allocated a substantial amount to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the establishment of an Innovation Fund as mandated by Republic Act 11293, or the Philippine Innovation Act.
The law encourages the promotion of technological advancement to enhance the competitiveness of the Philippine economy, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises.
“If we are to provide a truly attractive value proposition to the world’s investors, we need to start investing more heavily in innovation. We need to build up our know-how, not only in research and development, but also in bringing new technological findings as quickly as we can to the market,” Angara said.
To support the implementation of Republic Act 11036, or the Mental Health Act, signed on June 2018, Angara said funding would be provided for the establishment of a mental health hotline in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH).
“This is in response to the statement made by Dr. Cornelio Banaag Jr., professor emeritus of the UP College of Medicine and who is considered as the father of Philippine child psychiatry, that there is a looming mental health crisis among Filipino children,” Angara said.