'No underspending': Nearly all funds under 2018 national budget released

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced on Wednesday, December 5, that 96.3% of the P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 has been released as of November 22.

Some P16 billion was released to various government agencies for the month of November, bringing the total to P3.615 trillion. 

Some of the big-ticket projects are the following:

The budget department said the remaining P137.9 billion yet to be released before the year ends is still subject to agencies' compliance with documentary requirements.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno reiterated that the Duterte administration has finally "beat underspending" with almost all of the funds already released.

"There is absolutely no underspending to speak of. The government is ahead in its disbursements. In fact, we are slightly 'overspending,'" Diokno said, referring to the disbursement of funds ahead of the programmed allocations.

The national government's annual underspending rate was cut to 2.9% in 2017, from the previous administration's 13.3% in 2015 and 12.8% in 2015. In 2016, underspending was only at 3.6% of the national budget.

Diokno said the improved spending rate indicates "faster delivery of programs."

Reenacted budget

But non-passage of the 2019 budget this year will "drag" the government's budget utilization, Diokno said. (READ: Diokno blames Congress for delayed passage of 2019 budget)

"Incidentally, Congress' failure to approve the 2019 budget before the end of the year will be a drag to efforts in improving budget utilization and eliminating underspending and result [in] delay in the delivery of essential public services," he said.

On Tuesday, December 4, the Senate began its plenary deliberations on the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.

Senators are pressed for time to pass the budget, with Senator Loren Legarda "hoping" that it would be passed before the year ends.

But Senate President Vicente Sotto III is "doubtful" that the budget will be passed and signed into law by year-end. (READ: Budget deadlock: Who's to blame?)

If the proposed budget is not passed on time, the government would have to operate under a reenacted budget for 2019, which is an election year.

Diokno earlier said that the implementation of new projects would be delayed by at least 5 months if that happens. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.