House into overdrive, OKs P3-trillion budget
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the bill containing the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 will be signed into law before the year ends.
As the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading Friday night House Bill 6132 or the 2016 General Appropriations Bill, an opposition lawmaker insisted that the national budget next year still contained lump-sum funds at the discretion of the Palace.
“The P3-trillion national budget that the House passed [Friday night] is a budget loaded with lump sums, sneaky provisions crafted for fund juggling a lá DAP, and billions of funds designed to serve as the ruling party’s campaign war chest,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said.
“The content of the 2016 budget is basically 4Ps: pang-pork barrel, pambayad-utang, panuhol sa eleksyon, at pangpuhunan ng malalaking negosyante. Wala sa equation ang taumbayan,” the legislator stressed.
But Belmonte maintained there were “no irregularities” in the next year’s budget.
The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 is almost double the P1.54-trillion national budget in 2010. The budget will be financed by P2.7 billion in projected government revenues, leaving an estimated P308.7-billion deficit.
Programmed appropriations increased by 19 percent, from P1.7 trillion in the 2015 budget to P2.07 trillion, while unprogrammed appropriations decreased by 47.2 percent to P67.5 billion. Automatic appropriations increased by 7.4 percent, from the current P866.2 billion to P930.7 billion, while SPFs increased by 75.2 percent, from P245.7 billion to P430.4 billion.
Almost 37 percent or P1.1 trillion of the national budget is appropriated for social services, while 17.25 percent or P517.9 billion is for general public services, 27.6 percent or P829.6 billion is for economic services, 13.9 percent or P419.3 billion is for debt servicing, and 4.3 percent or P129.1 billion is for defense.
Ridon said as the allocation for next year’s budget increased, lump-sum amounts also went up.
“The 2016 Appropriations Act is called the ‘legacy budget’ of the Aquino administration. However, we can characterize House Bill 6132 as a budget clearly designed for corruption; a budget allotted for the implementation of anti-people programs and projects; and a budget that will only benefit big business and allies, all at the expense of Filipino taxpayers,” Ridon said.
Ridon maintained the following observations that were highlighted in the marathon plenary debate on HB 6132, such as the increased amount of Special Purpose Funds.
In 2016, Ridon said, debt service is still top priority, with the total national government debt service expenditure amounting to P740.5 billion (P392.79 billion for interest payments, P347.7 billion for principal amortization). In contrast, the education budget is only P504.6 billion.
Ridon also said there are provisions for “project modification” scattered in the budget of several agencies, including the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health, and the Department of Transportation and Communications. The said provision allows heads of agencies to change the specifications of projects even after the enactment of the budget bill, thus granting them “absolute discretion” to their budgets and essentially turning billions of funds for various projects into “pork funds.”
Ridon said the inclusion of almost P650 billion in lump sum appropriations, of which SPFs comprise P430.4 billion, while P217.8 billion are lump sums stashed in 38 national government agencies and executive offices.
He also cited budget cuts in the operating expenses of 59 state universities and colleges.
Similarly, he said huge amounts appropriated for private-public partnership projects, with the government allotting a minimum of P65.9 billion for PPPs in 2016. The 2016 budget also retains the P30-billion risk management program, which is essentially a budget for financial and regulatory risk guarantee to protect private profits against unforeseen events.
“There also remains the savings provision that essentially legalizes the Disbursement Acceleration Program. And there’s the P24.7 budget for bottom-up budgeting, which has been revealed to be designed to pour funds in vote-rich regions and traditional bailiwicks of the ruling party, and the fatter Conditional Cash Transfer Program,” Ridon explained.
This developed as Belmonte said President Benigno Aquino III will sign into law the budget bill by the end of the year. The House-approved budget measure will be transmitted to the Senate for action.
“With this nominal voting and subject to such amendments as may be approved by the small committee earlier created, House Bill 6132 is approved on third and final reading,” Belmonte said.
House Bill 6132 topped the vital bills approved by the House, which the Speaker said proved the lawmakers’ firm commitment to pursue reform measures for sustained and inclusive growth of the economy.
President Aquino earlier certified as urgent HB 6132, saying his certification is in line with Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution and will “address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year to expedite the funding of various programs, projects and activities for FY 2016, and to ensure budgetary preparedness that will enable the government to effectively perform its constitutional mandate.”
Belmonte commended House members for approving on third and final reading HB 6132 which is one of the most important—if not the most important—piece of legislation, that is expected of Congress in the 3rd Regular Session of the 16th Congress. “With your steadfast efforts and steely resolve, we are one step closer towards the enactment of the 2016 GAB into law before the end of the year,” said the Speaker.
Over the past five fiscal years of the 15th and the 16th Congresses, Belmonte said the House managed to pass the national budget on time which prevented the country from operating under a reenacted budget, which was the norm in the past.
“Passing the budget on time speaks of the highest level of commitment that we have in responding effectively and efficiently to the needs of our people. We have deliberated comprehensively and debated extensively. The political climate makes it prone to grandstanding, but instead we chose to listen,” Belmonte said.
He said House members of Congress listened to their constituents when the lawmakers consulted them about what services and programs they need to improve their quality of life.
The House’s openness to suggestions from various government agencies when they proposed and presented the appropriate responses to these needs of the people helped a lot to fast-track the approval of the budget measure.
The House leader said the 2016 national budget is the country’s best weapon to combat the possibly harsh El Niño occurrence and persistent global economic slowdown threatening the country.
For fiscal year 2016, the proposed budget amounting to P3.002 trillion nearly doubles the 2010 national budget. It is also 15.2 percent more than the 2015 appropriations and represents the highest budget increase in the last six years. Moreover, it is 19.5 percent of the gross domestic product, which is much bigger than the share in 2010 of 16.4 percent, Belmonte said.