MANILA -- Around P800 billion or nearly half of the P1.645-trillion national budget was released in the first three months of the year, a senior government official said Tuesday.

According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the move was in line with President Benigno Aquino III’s directive to frontload infrastructure projects in the first semester, when the weather was normally dry.

“These frontloaded releases should enable our departments and agencies to be responsive in addressing the needs of our citizens, especially the poor and the marginalized,” he said.

This figure, however, will soon balloon if key departments will submit their program of allocations, especially under lump sum funds.

These are the Departments of Education (P33.5 billion), Public Works and Highways (P25.3 billion), Agriculture (P13.7 billion) and Agrarian Reform (P12.5 billion).

As of March 2011, Abad said a total of P618 billion under the budgets of departments and agencies had already been released, or 81 percent of the amount programmed for the year.

Meantime, the government paid P59 billion for its interest and net lending obligations, which fall under automatic appropriations. Some 22 percent of automatic appropriations had already been released.

The budget was passed before the start of 2011, a first in 11 years, which gave the government an elbow room to implement infrastructure projects. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)