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House panel approves P447-M OVP budget for 2019

Mara Cepeda
House panel approves P447-M OVP budget for 2019
The Office of the Vice President's proposed budget for 2019 is P96 million less than in 2018, which Leni Robredo says would affect her anti-poverty program

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on appropriations approved on Wednesday, August 29, the proposed P447.68-million budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) for 2019.

During the budget hearing, Vice President Leni Robredo appealed to the House panel to “return” the OVP’s 2019 budget to its current budget level. She pointed out that the proposed budget is lower than the 2018 budget of P543.95 million – a difference of P96.27 million – which would affect her flagship anti-poverty program.

The lower budget is because of the cash-based budgeting system that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) wants to implement next year, which limits contractual obligations and disbursing payments to goods delivered and services rendered within the fiscal year.

Robredo told the House panel that the lower OVP budget would affect Angat Buhay, which has so far helped 155,000 families. She noted that the OVP originally sought a minimal budget increase in 2019.

“The 2018 budget for the office was P543.95 million. We proposed P549 million for 2019. That is just an additional P6 million. But what was recommended by DBM is about P100 million less than our budget last year, which is just P447.68 million. That would mean that we would not be able to continue with our livelihood assistance to our adopted LGUs (local government units),” said Robredo. 

She then appealed to the House appropriations committee for the 2019 OVP budget to at least be returned to the same level as last year.

“We would like to make this appeal, Mr Chair, that our budget be returned to how much it was last year…. The decrease is not for operations, but it’s really for our livelihood assistance. It’s really difficult if we’re entirely dependent on private sector support,” Robredo said in Filipino.

Given its low budget, the OVP does not fully subsidize Angat Buhay. Instead, the OVP links mediator private companies and non-governmental organizations to local government units to provide assistance to families in need.

Assurance from House panel

House panel chairperson Karlo Nograles assured Robredo that his committee would find a way to address her concern. (READ: House, DBM agree to restore budget cuts in education, health, infra in 2019)

“Most of the departments also experience the same budget cut, which is why we’re trying to resolve these things within our means as well. ‘Wag kayong mag-alala. Hanapan natin ng paraan itong problema na ito (Don’t worry. We’ll find a way to solve this problem),” he said. 

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, Robredo’s party mate at the Liberal Party, then moved for the committee to terminate deliberations on the OVP budget, “without prejudice” to possible amendments that may be introduced once the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget is brought to the House plenary. 

The committee approved the motion unanimously, signalling the approval of the OVP budget for 2019.

Traditionally, the budget proposals of the OVP as well as the Office of the President breeze through the House appropriations panel. Lawmakers tend to ask questions at the plenary debates.

Asked whether she saw the lower budget as politically motivated, Robredo said in a media interview after the hearing that it would be difficult to make this conclusion since many other government agencies will get reduced budgets, or funds lower than what they asked for, because of the cash-based budgeting.

She hoped lawmakers wuld grant her appeal, since the OVP has had a good record of fund utilization.

“Nag-a-appeal kaming madagdagan kasi kung titingnan naman iyong utilization namin, maayos. For 2017, 95% iyong utilization namin so wala naman talagang dahilan para hindi ipagkatiwala sa amin iyong budget,” she said.

(We’re appealing for additional funds because if you check our utilization, we’ve performed well. For 2017, our utilization was at 95% so there really is no reason for us not to be entrusted with our budget.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.