AT least P23.5 billion will be allocated by the Duterte administration to fund congressional projects of 294 House members under the P3.350 trillion national budget for 2017 that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will submit to Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez and other House leaders at 12 noon today to be ratified by Congress on or before December 14, 2016.
The amount is based on P80 million allocation to each congressman that Alvarez said would be used to fund scholarships, medical and burial assistance of their constituents, infrastructures and other programs for the poor in the countryside.
This is P10 million higher compared to the P70 million given to every congressional district in the previous Aquino administration when each senator receives P200 million fund to implement his priority projects.
Alvarez, secretary general of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said the allocation cannot be considered pork barrel which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional because the P80 million funding will be part of the line-item budgeting which promotes transparency.
The priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel was a lump-sum discretionary fund, which a representative could spend on projects at the district level, but declared by the SC as unconstitutional in 2013.
The Speaker also assured the timely passage of the national budget for next year.
“Between now and November, we'll prioritize deliberations for the national budget for 2017,” Alvarez said.
House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas, another stalwart of the PDP-Laban, said the House of Representatives will ratify next year’s General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on December 14, 2016.
“We will pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in time for the President to sign it into the General Appropriations Act (GAA) on or before we adjourn on December 14. This will be the first National Expenditure Program (NEP) of President Rody and we will see his priorities for his first year in office,” Fariñas said.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, who chairs the House committee on appropriations, vowed to ensure” that we will have a budget responsive to the people's needs and in support of President Duterte's thrusts, priorities and call for change.”
“Immediately after the NEP is submitted to us by Sec. Diokno, the congressmen and congresswomen have one week to scrutinize its contents. Thereafter, on August 22 we will begin the budget briefings were department and agency in government all the way up to September 13. Then on September 19 we will bring the budget to the floor for plenary debates,” Nograles said, adding he is hoping that President Duterte will sign the national budget into law or as General Appropriations Act (GAA) by December 7.
The House leaders said the proposed budget of P3.350 trillion, which is 11.6 percent higher than last year’s P3.002 trillion, reflects the Duterte administration's priorities next year as it intensifies efforts to combat crime, illegal drugs and corruption, enhance economic growth through regional development, and bring about other reforms including a shift from the unitary to a federal system of government, via a comprehensive revision of the 1987 Constitution.
On August 22, Nograles said, the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) will make a presentation of the budget overview, including the macro-economic assumptions, projected borrowings and sources of funds for the country’s annual operations.
The DBCC, which is an inter-agency body, is composed of the DBM, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance (DoF) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Earlier, Diokno said the budgets for 2017 until 2022 will support the President’s promise to improve the country’s infrastructure, invest in human resources, modernize agriculture and rural development, and develop lagging regions.
The DBM also said “For Fiscal Year 2017, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) will recommend to President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte a total obligation budget of P3.35 trillion to be proposed to Congress.