SENATOR Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, said the Senate will support President Rodrigo Duterte's P3.35-trillion "budget for change," saying there is no way that Congress will be a hindrance to the plans of the present administration.

Legarda said it is imperative that Congress work hand in hand to help the Duterte administration in its goal to serve the people.

Her reaction came after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno presented the 2017 National Expenditure Program, which was presented to her and to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

In his presentation, Diokno justified that the P15-billion increase in the budget of the Office of the President was because of the 50th year of the Asean event that will be celebrated in the country.

"We are hosting the golden year of the Asean. There's a P15 billion allocation for that. We placed it under the Office of the President. In the budget implementation phase, we will distribute it to the appropriate agencies like tourism, foreign affairs," he said.

The budget, which is usually presented to the House of Representatives and the Senate, will have to be justified accordingly before the Executive Department will get the final nod from Congress.

The 19.7 percent increase in the budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government reflects the increase of the Philippine National Police budget also reflecting an increase in the pay of the police and the 20 kilos of rice per month for the entire year for the CCT beneficiaries, which was earlier promised by the Chief Executive.

The budget for the Department of Education is 31 percent higher for 2017 than the 2016 budget.

The government will be spending something like P900 billion for next year, just for public infrastructure, Diokno said.

"During the entire term of Mr. Duterte, from 2017 to 2022, we will be spending something like P7 trillion. Just to make up for past development," he said.

Rehabilitation centers will also be part of the budget as they are expecting approximately P700 million for each rehab centers that will be used to accommodate drug users who would be willing to avail of the government’s rehabilitation program.

"There will be five or rather four rehab centers, each rehab centers will cost approximately 700 million. There two in Luzon, one in the Visayas and another one in Mindanao," Diokno said.

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) of the government will not increase the number of beneficiaries but Diokno said they will clean up those who do not deserve anymore the CCT help. In addition, the government, he said, will also be providing at least 20 kilos of rice per month/per beneficiary for 12 months for the three million household.

"That will cost the government approximately 20 Billion," Diokno said.

It was also revealed that member of the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Coast Guards as well as the Bureau of Fire Protection will receive significant salary increase under the Duterte administration.

"We will get it from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund. We will have an additional increase in the salary of the military and uniformed personnel," Diokno said.

However, at the same time, the Budget Secretary also clarified that they have nothing in the said budget, allotted for Charter Change.

Diokno said since the Duterte administration will be pushing for a Constitutional Assembly, the government need not spend additional budget to pay for members of Congress as this will mean double compensation.

Senate President Pimentel meanwhile said, the Senate will scrutinize the National Expenditure Program as submitted by Diokno as the majority's program that will focus on reform. (Sunnex)