Duterte signs Php 3.35T 'Pro-People' 2017 national budget

    MANILA, Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed today, December 22 at Malacañang Palace, the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) worth P3.350 trillion, the first budget of the new administration.

    President Duterte signs P3.350T "Pro-People" 2017 national budget

    The Congress and the Senate ratified the national budget on December 13 and 14, 2016, respectively. It is 11.6 percent higher than the previous fiscal year and the largest budget ever assembled for the Philippine government.

    Among the highlights of the budget is the strong support for education with the increased budget worth P8 billion for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) so that all college students enrolled in any SUC in the country will not have to pay for their tuition fee.

    The budget for SUCs was also increased to provide additional funds for scholarship and capital outlay for all SUCs. College students belonging to family-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are covered by the Expanded Students' Grants in Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA); while those who are not part of the 4Ps can avail of financial assistance for educational purposes under the Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) both under CHED and SUCs.

    Meanwhile, increased allocation for the Department of Education (DepEd) is intended for site development of public schools and to increase teachers' cash or chalk allowance from P1,500 to P2,500, which they use to purchase classroom supplies like chalk, erasers and forms.

    For healthcare, budget for PhilHealth was increased by P3 billion so that all Filipinos will now be covered by the universal healthcare program, while indigent patients will not have to pay for anything in government hospitals under the No Balance Billing (NBB) policy.

    Apart from the PhilHealth subsidy, the 2017 national budget will also allocate a total of P96.336 billion for the Department of Health (DOH), which includes funds for the construction of additional health facilities and drug rehabilitation centers. The amount is also inclusive of the P800 million funding for the Doctors to the Barrio program, which aims to provide equitable healthcare services to all areas of the country through the deployment of competent and dedicated physicians to serve the doctorless municipalities.

    Under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P100 million will be granted to centenarians and additional funding is provided for the supplemental feeding program. Moreover, all 4.4 million beneficiaries of the 4Ps will now be entitled to a rice allowance in the form of cash grants.

    Under the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) budget, the amount of P2 billion is provided to subsidize irrigation service fees (ISF) that farmers have long been shouldering. An accompanying Special Provision for this purpose specifies that the P2 billion allocation will be used to cover the operating requirements of NIA and the maintenance of existing irrigation facilities which were previously funded out of the collections from ISF.

    For livelihood and microenterprises support, additional P1 billion is allocated under the Small Business Corporation so it can provide loans at almost no interest to microenterprises; additional funds were also provided for various programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) including Employment Facilitation and Capacity Building Services.

    Under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), there are funds for the Training for Work Scholarship Program/Livelihood, as well as Training Provision for Drug Dependents.

    For the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), additional funds were provided for training and equipment of firefighters, support to the Philippine National Police's (PNP) fight against illegal drugs, increased subsistence allowance of prisoners and rehabilitation and construction of jail facilities.

    Additional funds were also allocated to the Department of National Defense (DND) to fund activities to effectively defend the country from internal and external threats, as well as to fund programs such as the repair of Veterans Center, expanded veterans hospitalization program, and construction of cadet barracks.

    Funds have been allocated for the combat and incentive pay of the military and police, as well as for the Capability Enhancement Program of the PNP.

    For environment and resilience programs, funds under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were allocated for restoration of mangroves, which are effective buffers against storm surge and tsunami. In implementing the National Greening Program (NGP), the DENR should use planting materials that are responsive to the needs of the communities such as fruit-bearing trees, bamboo, coconut trees, and trees that are important for traditional use and livelihood of indigenous peoples and local communities.

    Legarda: We aim to fuel hope and inspire our people

    Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said that she is proud of the work they have done for this budget, which is pro-people as it addresses the most basic needs of the people while improving the country's economic growth.

    "Through this budget, we aim to fuel hope and inspire our people to believe in our collective future again. We have provided funds to ensure universal healthcare coverage, free irrigation for farmers, free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), additional allowance for teachers, police and military, rice allowance for conditional cash transfer beneficiaries, creation of drug rehabilitation centers, increase in prisoners' subsistence allowance, pension for Post World War II veterans and centenarians, among many others," said Legarda.

    "A leap in infrastructure spending is also one of the priorities of the 2017 budget given its indispensable role in poverty reduction, raising productivity, and in spreading the benefits of economic growth," she added.

    Hontiveros lauds 2017 budget with historic debt audit provision, health reforms

    "A historic first in the history of the Philippine budget system."

    This is how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros described the passage of the 2017 national government budget that contains a special provision mandating Congress to conduct a comprehensive audit of the country's debt.

    The said provision tasked the Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Development Assistance to conduct a debt audit to determine the legitimacy of a list of loan agreements challenged as illegitimate. The said debt audit will be conducted in the 2017 fiscal year.

    Hontiveros, who introduced the said general provision, said that the process of a debt audit is an important policy tool to unburden the Filipino people from paying onerous and illegitimate debts and beef up funding for social service spending.
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