PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday signed into law next year’s P3.35 trillion budget, P333 billion of which would go to debt service interest payment as demanded by the country’s foreign creditors like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Nevertheless, the president insisted that the 2017 General Appropriations Act still ensures that state funds would benefit the poor and vulnerable sectors. Furthermore, he stressed that next year’s national budget, which he claimed is the “embodiment of Filipinos’ clamor for change,” is “pro-people, pro-investment, pro-growth and pro-development.”
“I have said this before and I will reiterate it. The budget is useless if the Filipino is not at its center. This budget is a credible budget where every peso will be spent for the governments, for the gains of the Filipino people,” Duterte said after signing the monumental budget law in Malacanang.
At the same time, Pres. Duterte commended the sitting congress for the timely passage of the appropriations act as he lamented the ”bottoms up approach” of the previous administration ate up most of the budget this year.
To enable the government to send more than 20 million students to school, the Education department got the highest allocation with P544.1 billion.
On the other hand, to ensure government assistance to the needy, the Social Welfare department was given P128.3 billion while the Health department was allotted P96.3 billion to provide the poor access to modern health facilities and services.
The Interior and Local Government department got P148 billion to enable it to step up efforts against illegal drugs, build new jail facilities and increase the allowance for prisoners. At the same time, P486.9 billion for internal revenue allotment to enable local governments to implement development programs.
“The national intensification and the household electrification program in off-grid areas will also be prioritized. Included in the budget of herein is the 1.1 billion budget, an increase of 38.4 from its 2016 budget is the electrification efforts for remote areas,” the president said.
The Defense department, meanwhile, was given P137.2 billion for territorial defense, security and stability services.
“We will pursue the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program for the maintenance of major equipment, aircraft vessels and increase in ammunition capacity as well as the veterans’ hospitalization benefits,” Duterte said.
For its`part, the Public Works department was given P454.7 billion while the Transportation department was allotted P53.3 billion to bankroll public infrastructure, one of the priorities of the Duterte administration.
Moreover, Pres. Duterte said farmers would no longer have to pay for irrigation fees as the costs would be shouldered by the National Irrigation Authority, which was given P38.4 billion for next year.
The Agriculture department was granted P45.2 billion while the Agrarian Reform department was provided with P9.8 billion.
The government will also grant crop insurance to 1.3 million farmers and fisher folks to mitigate the impact of typhoons and other natural calamities.
Programs for climate change adaptation, improvement of harvest productivity, research and development, market development, and construction of farm-to-market roads were also given funding to support farmers.