Legarda: Senate approves 2018 national budget

CLARK FREEPORT -- The Senate unanimously approved the proposed 2018 national budget worth P3.767 trillion said Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and sponsor of the budget.

On Wednesday night, 16 senators present in session voted to approve the proposed national budget on third and final reading.

Legarda said that the Senate increased to P51 billion the allocation for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. There is also an additional funding worth P327 million for free Wi-Fi in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and public places and additional Php10 Million for capital outlay for each SUC. Under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), there is funding worth P250 million for free tuition for medical students enrolled in SUCs.

Under the Department of Education (DepEd) budget, cash allowance of teachers will increase from P2,500 to P5,000 per teacher as the Senate provided additional P1.8 billion; and there is also additional P2.5 billion for school-based feeding program.

The budget will continue to fund the Universal Healthcare Program under PhilHealth so that all Filipinos are covered by its Point-of-Service program. The Senate also allocated P6.5 billion under PhilHealth to provide for the health insurance of government employees under the executive department.

It also provided funding for the rehabilitation of Marawi City. There is P10 billion under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund for Marawi rehabilitation.

“We have also provided additional funding for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) centers nationwide in the amount of P3 billion, while the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program has a total budget of P89 billion,” said Legarda.

The Senate also approved P60 billion for the increase of base pay of military and uniformed personnel; while P1.647 billion was allocated for the full payment of total administrative disability (TAD) arrears for the surviving spouses of World War II veterans. Meanwhile, additional P372 million was allocated under the Bureau of Corrections for additional prison facilities.

Legarda also explained that the P900 million and P500 million for the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Oplan Double Barrel and MASA MASID, respectively, were realigned. Some P1.35 billion was transferred to the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Housing Program; while the P50 million was allocated for additional budget for acquisition of body cameras of police officers.

“Under the budget, we still have the P2 billion subsidy for irrigation fees of farmer associations, which we first introduced in the 2017 budget. We also provided additional funds to boost livelihoods and the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), including the additional P800 million for the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Shared Service Facilities (SSF),” Legarda said.

The Senator added that the 2018 General Appropriations Bill ensures ecological integrity, clean and healthy environment, risk-sensitive investments, and disaster preparedness through special provisions that integrate and mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in government programs. “We firmly believe that building an inclusive and prosperous economy requires us to continually strengthen our resilience to impacts of natural hazards and climate change,” she added.

The Senate and the House of Representatives will convene tomorrow, November 30, 2017, the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences in their respective versions of the proposed 2018 national budget.

The Senate panel will be composed of Legarda as the chairperson, with Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
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