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Lacson warns House of possible budget delay due to ‘realignments’

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Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday warned of another possible delay in the passage of the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for next year if the House contingent pushes with its planned P100-billion realignments.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said there would be realignments of the budget amounting to P100 million during the Bicameral Conference Committee hearings.

Since this is a huge amount, Lacson cautioned against a distortion in the recommended national budget of the agencies which could suffer a budget cut or additional budget.

Lacson said the realignments could have been included in the proposed budget approved by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate for scrutiny of the senators.

Lacson cited the delay in the approval of the 2019 budget due to the P95-billion realignments made by the House after bicam meetings on the budget.

Due to the delay, there were delays in government infrastructure projects like construction of bridges, roads and school buildings. If has also a negative impact on the country’s economy as there was also a slower GDP growth.

Meanwhile, Finance commitree chairperson Senator Sonny Angara commended his fellow senators for further raising the “compassion index” of the 2020 national budget by hiking allocations for social services.

The amendments to education, health and social welfare programs in the P4.1 trillion spending bill, he said,  are “targeted and transparent.”

He said there is “a bipartisan consensus” to increase funds for the repair of earthquake-damaged schools, school vouchers, free college, school feeding, help for indigent patients, and the deployment of nurses, doctors to poor areas, among others.

He said the “budgetary augmentations” were recommended by the vice chairpersons of the Senate’s budget-writing committee “upon the request of the departments.”

Upon the recommendation of Senators Pia Cayetano and Ralph Recto, DepEd’s budget was increased by P6.2 billion to prevent the dropping out of senior high school students studying in private schools using government vouchers, Angara said.

The amount will also bankroll the completion of the equipment, facility and teaching needs of hard-to-reach “Last Mile Schools” and for the conservation of the heritage Gabaldon school buildings, the senator added.

For higher education, Angara said the Senate “has filled the large holes” in the CHED budget, by increasing the funds for the Student Financial Assistance Program by P8.5 billion.

The same amount is also added for next year’s implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, an Angara-authored bill.

Through the intervention of Sen. Joel Villanueva, research grants were raised to P116 million, distributed across the state universities and colleges and the UP System.

“We also alloted P167 million for the cash grants of our medical scholars in the SUCs,” Angara said.

In recognition of how technology has rapidly been integrated into all aspects of life, including in the historically-antiquated bureaucracy, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, through the efforts of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, was provided with an additional P4 billion for its programs such as the building of digital classrooms, workforce, workplace and communities and the free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

Other “boosted health expenditures,” Angara said, include the P9.439 billion fund to aid poor patients in both private and public hospitals.

To prevent the mass layoff of nurses, doctors, midwives and other health professionals deployed to “underdeveloped and unserved” areas, the Senate finance panel allotted P7 billion for their continued employment in 2020.

“We are also funding affordable but critical medical projects, like a 24-hour Mental Health Hotline to be manned by qualified health professionals,” he said.

Angara said the DSWD’s budget for its flagship Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will be P108.7 billion, “to comply with the recently passed law institutionalizing the program.”

He credited Sen. Imee Marcos for supporting the increase in the budget of the DSWD’s Supplementary Feeding Program from P3.6 billion to P6.6 billion to ensure children in pre-school, kindergarten and public day care centers are provided with hot meals, which is an advocacy of Sen. Grace Poe.

Angara said  “poverty amelioration” expenditures, in the form of subsidies and grants, are also included in the budget of other agencies such as the Department of Agriculture.


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