The House of Representatives in record time approved on second reading the P1.227 trillion nation budget but augmented appropriations for health, education, agriculture, public safety and security, assistance to OFWs and prisoners, and infrastructure.
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said that “while the House maintained the expenditure level proposed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it cut from within the projected appropriations to assure additional allotments for social services and infrastructure to the tune of more than P30-B.”
Congress is prohibited by the Constitution from increasing the totality of the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the government.
“To slash the budget for reduction’s sake is to stunt growth and perpetuate poverty,” Lagman explained.
The Bicol solon added that “both the majority and the minority were imbued with patriotism, not patronage, when they collectively reduced debt service, military expenditures, undoable and slow moving projects, and excess and redundant allocations in order to create a pool of resources to fund developmental priorities.”
According to Lagman “debt service or interest payments of foreign loans was reduced by P17.8-B, of which P6.8-B corresponds to reduction of debt payments as a result of the continuing appreciation of the peso and P11.0-B represents the proposed suspension of interest payments for loans initially identified and challenged to be tainted or wasteful pending their renegotiation and/or condonation.
The P1.0-M Kalayaan Barangay Program which is for implementation by the Department of National Defense was cut by half because there are infrastructure projects already earmarked in the 200 barangays which are identified as conflict areas and could be implemented by the Engineering Battalion.
The other slashed or deleted appropriations include the following:
- LRT Line 1 South Extension Project amounting to P2.2-B under the budget of the Department of Transportation and Communication which could not be implemented within the next three (3) years;
- P5.0-B worth of slow moving projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways;
- Budgetary support to government corporations was reduced by P2.1-B corresponding to the Home Guaranty Corporation (P700-M), National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (P400-M) and National Housing Authority (P1.0-B) which amounts could not be utilized in 2008 due to the lack of absorptive capacity of the subject agencies;
- The Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund of P43.7-B was reduced by P2.7-B corresponding to the amount which could not be utilized next year.
The collated reduction of P30.1-B was reallocated to increase the respective budgets for:
- Teaching personnel, textbooks, school furniture, scholarships and school buildings;
- Reproductive health, family planning, operating expenses of hospitals, hospital equipment, and requirements for healthcare services/disease prevention and control;
- Meal allowance for prisoners;
- Firearms, ammunition, patrol cars and fire trucks;
- Assistance to OFWs and Filipino nationals abroad in distress; and
- Infrastructure projects