House approves P2-trillion budget for 2013-A A +A
Thursday, September 20, 2012
MANILA -- The House of Representatives on Thursday evening approved on second reading the proposed P2.006-trillion national budget for 2013.
Through a viva voce vote, House Bill 6455 or the General Appropriations Bill was approved “en toto” before the House of Representatives went on a two-week break in preparation for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2013 midterm polls.
The lump sum funds, which the Social Watch Philippines said amount to P317.5 billion, were also approved without question.
Earlier, Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones warned that a new item in the budget, the so-called Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund (PSEPF), may be used by the administration as an “election budget.” The PSEPF has an appropriation of P22.4 billion.
House appropriations committee chairman Joseph Emilio Abaya said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has sent an “errata” to itemize the lump sum funds. This will be inserted in the period of amendments before the third reading approval of the budget.
A small committee was created Thursday night to resolve the individual amendments. It will be composed of Abaya, and Representatives Jocelyn Limkaichong, Rolando Andaya Jr., Janet Garin, and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.
In his turno en contra speech, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said that lump sum appropriations have always been “problematic.”
“Since these are not as detailed as regular appropriations, they tend to be vulnerable to abuse. Accountability is sometimes difficult to establish and required documentation is not complied with,” he said.
Suarez also said that the DBM has not complied with the submission of annual reports to the House of Representatives and the Senate quarterly reports stating the releases from the unprogrammed fund.
“As far as this representation is concern, I haven’t received any documents related to the said provision. Mr. Speaker, what does this imply? Congress cannot monitor in a timely manner how the Executive is utilizing the hundreds of billions of the people’s money lodged in the SPFs,” he said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., meanwhile, thanked his colleagues for passing the 2013 budget on time.
“This is the first time the budget is approved before midnight,” he noted.
The Department of Education will continue to receive the bulk of the 2013 budget with a total allocation of P292.7 billion, up by 22.6 percent from this year’s operating budget.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) takes the second largest share in line with President Aquino’s goal of strengthening the country’s infrastructure base and fueling economic growth, the Budget department said. DPWH will receive P152.9 billion.
Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense will receive a total of P121.6 billion, up by 12.5 percent from its 2012 budget.
The Department of Interior and Local Government will likewise receive a budgetary boost of 21.3 percent from its current year’s allocation, bringing the agency’s proposed 2013 budget to P121.1 billion.
On the other hand, the Agriculture department will get a 20.6-percent increase in its 2013 budget, with its total allocation rising to P74.1 billion.
The P56.2-billion appropriation for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was also approved without question.
DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said it was the first time in three years that her agency’s budget was swiftly approved, which was often questioned because of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
For 2013, the CCT program would receive P44.2 billion for 3.5 million household beneficiaries.
“It’s the first time (DSWD budget was passed quickly) and I think it went that way because we provided information to the Congress people every month and every quarter on the work that we are doing in their district, so they had the information,” Soliman said.
The budget is scheduled to be approved on third reading by October 15. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)