THE Senate voted 16-0 to approve on third and final reading Wednesday, November 29, the P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018.
Oplan Double Barrel and Masa Masid, Philippine National Police (PNP) programs to implement President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, were cut from the Senate version of the budget bill.
Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on finance and sponsor of the bill, said the 2018 national budget is a “pro-people” budget, which will address the most basic needs of Filipinos.
The Senate allocated P131.628 billion to the PNP next year.
“We cut the (Oplan) Double Barrel and Masa Masid of the PNP and DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) while PDEA’s budget increased by P1.213 billion,” Legarda said during the plenary.
PDEA, or Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency, is currently spearheading the government's anti-narcotics campaign.
The PNP was stripped of its lead role in the campaign for the second time on October 10, 2017, after some policemen were implicated in alleged extrajudicial killings.
The budget also includes P50 million for the acquisition of body cameras “to be used by police officers in highly-urbanized areas.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, was allocated P141.860 billion, to complement the AFP Modernization Program.
To prevent any event like the Marawi crisis from happening again, the Senate also allocated P100 million for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and increased the AFP intelligence fund to P137.312 million.
The education sector received the highest budget allocation at P684.33 billion, which includes P51 billion for free college education in all State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), apart from a P10 million fund for “capital outlay and free Wi-Fi in all SUCs.”
The Department of Education (DepEd) and its attached agencies will get P561.58 billion; SUCs, P62.33 billion; and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), P60.42 billion.
This was followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P598.57 billion “to spur infrastructure spending and herald the so-called Golden Age of Infrastructure.”
The third highest allocation went to the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached corporations with 174.47.43 billion, including a P3-billion fund for the universal health coverage and P6.5 billion for the health benefits for government employees.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) got a P170.24-billion budget followed by the Department of National Defense (DND) with P147.85 billion and the Department of Social Welfare and Development with 139.27 billion.
Legarda said government would continue to support DSWD’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program by upholding its P89.41 billion allocation, “of which P31.68 billion is for rice subsidy.”
The Senate elected Legarda as the chairperson of the bicameral conference committee that will reconcile contrasting provisions of the national budget. Members are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Panfilo Lacson, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri. (PS Jun Sarmiento / SunStar Philippines)