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Change is coming with a PhP3.35-T price tag

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The figures behind President Duterte’s “Budget for Change”

Change has definitely come and looks like it comes with a hefty price tag.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has recently released the complete National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2017 as proposed by the newly seated administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

And boy, we saw a lot of zeroes. And a few red flags.

“Being the first budget of President Duterte, we will immediately get a glimpse of the priority projects and programs that he wants his administration to focus on to actualize the change that the President wants to bring in to this new administration,” said Davao City 1st District Rep. Karlo Nograles in a report by the Philippine News Agency.

Let’s take a look at the President’s priorities, shall we?

3.35

According to the submitted NEP, “change” costs PhP3,350,000,000,000.

That’s a difference of about PHP 350 million or roughly 11 percent from the previous administration’s 2016 budget.

130.6

In line with the President’s bloody war on drugs and criminals, the proposed budget for the military is PhP130.6 billion, roughly 15 percent more than the 2016 budget from the previous administration.

“This will be used to intensify the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) counter-terrorism efforts and to protect our borders… [and] to give our soldiers more weapons and equipment,” Duterte said in his message to the Congress, emphasizing the PhP25 billion budget for the modernization of the AFP.

110.4

The Philippine National Police (PNP), which is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is getting PhP110.4 billion in 2017 — 24.6 percent more compared to this year’s budget.

“My government will double or even triple its efforts to bring drug pushers and crime syndicates behind bars… [and] to hire more policemen, buy more guns and patrol vehicles and finance other activities for more effective crime suppression,” Duterte said.

566

The Department of Education (DepEd) will still receive the lion’s share of the 2017 proposed budget, getting more than PhP566 billion — a PhP135-billion difference from this year’s allocation.

PhP166 billion of the proposed DepEd budget will go to the construction and rehabilitation of more than 37,500 classrooms, new facilities, and the hiring of at least 53,000 new teachers.

“The next six years will be the golden age of Philippine construction, both public and private,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told the Financial Executives of the Philippines in July.

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The 2017 budget also looks to increase the government subsidy for health insurance premium payments for indigent families by PhP50 billion, which is 15 percent more than the 2016 budget.

20

The President’s office also got a 600 percent boost in the budget proposal to the tune of more than PhP20 billion — almost eight times the PhP2.9-billion budget for this year.

The budget for the Office of the President includes a special provision: a PhP15 billion appropriation for hosting the upcoming golden anniversary celebration of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).

For comparison’s sake, the reported budget for the APEC Summit in 2015 was PhP10 billion (a figure highly criticized at the time) — and it featured Mercedes Benz and BMW service vehicles and 5-star accommodations for all APEC delegates and their team.

Diokno told CNN Philippines via text that “the PhP15 billion under [the Office of the President] will still be distributed to concerned agencies next year.”

1.4

“The most glaring among these is the presence of up to PhP1.4 trillion in lump sums in programmed and unprogrammed “special purpose funds” (SPFs) and automatic appropriations,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, referring to the lump sum inclusions in the 2017 budget.

Congressmen were also allowed to submit project proposals amounting to PhP80 million, despite the dismantling of the bottom-up budgeting scheme, which was used during the previous administration.

“Diokno’s refusal during the budget hearing to provide a list of ‘pork projects’ or projects proposed by legislators during the budget-preparation stage was unfortunate,” Marjohara Tacay wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Diokno refused to provide details by telling the budget committee, “I think I can say this with authority. I’m the oldest here, I’ve seen this budget before martial law. It’s been a practice — legislators will go to the department secretaries and ask for the budget.”

Despite these setbacks, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Loren Legarda assured the public, “We will work closely with the country’s economic managers and all our government agencies, and consider our constituents’ concerns to ensure that the national budget for 2017 will indeed be a budget for real change.”

166

The number of exceptions listed in the Duterte administration’s freedom of information (FOI) draft. The items listed supposedly involve matters on national security, executive privilege and invasion of personal privacy. As noted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the exceptions were based on recommendations of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General, which prepared the inventory of materials that could be released to the public following Duterte’s issuance of the executive order on FOI to “promote transparency in government.”

Curiously, the draft states that “government officials cannot be compelled to prepare lusts and detailed reports on how congressional funds were disbursed.”

Check out the complete DBM PhP3.35-trillion National Expenditure Program for 2017 at www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=16379.

 

By CHING DEE

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