Social services fund hike pushed as 2020 budget bill goes to Senate plenary

Aika Rey
Social services fund hike pushed as 2020 budget bill goes to Senate plenary

Angie de Silva

The Senate aims to wrap up deliberations of the general appropriations bill by November 22

MANILA, Philippines – Senators seek to increase the budget for social services for next year as the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 reached the Senate plenary.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, Senate finance committee chair, sponsored the 2020 general appropriations bill (GAB) in the plenary on Monday, November 11, after months of deliberations in the upper chamber.

“We believe this budget will help bring us closer to becoming an upper middle-income country by 2022, where human development is high and growth is more inclusive as manifested in a lower poverty incidence in rural areas and in a lower overall unemployment rate,” Angara told senators.

Angara said that the amendments for education, health, and social welfare programs are “targeted and transparent.”

At least P6.2 billion was added to the Department of Education budget on government vouchers and building of “last mile schools,” as well as preservation of Gabaldon school buildings that were built during the American period.

For higher education, the student financial assistance program and the implementation of the Free Tuition Law will each receive an additional P8.5 billion under the spending bill.

Research grants were also hiked to P116 million, distributed across state universities and colleges, as well as schools in the University of the Philippines system. Cash grants for medical scholars in SUCs were also raised to P167 million.

For social services, Angara said that the Senate committee increased the budget for the unconditional cash transfer program of the government or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program to P108.7 billion.

The finance panel allotted some P7 billion for the continued employment of nurses, doctors, and other health professionals deployed in underserved areas for 2020, as well as the 24-hour mental health hotline.

The senator also said additional funds were also lodged under the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority for the operations of the Pasig River Ferry system, seen to be an additional mode of transportation within the metro.

In the Senate version of the GAB, at least 17.3% or about one-fifth of the P4.1-trillion budget was alloted for education and manpower development; 15.4% will be devoted for expenditures related to communications, roads, and other forms of transportation; 9% for social security and welfare; 7.4% for public order; and 4.8% for domestic security.

“Sa mga halagang ito, pakay natin ipagpatuloy ang proseso para abutin ang pagbabago sa ating lipunan, kung saan titibay ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa gobyerno, panatag ang kanilang loob na ligtas ang kanilang buhay, at lalawak ang pagkakataon para umasenso,” Angara said.

(These amounts showed that our agenda is to forward the transition to a new society; strengthen the trust of the people to the government; with the assurances that their lives are secured; and have the opportunities to lead a better life.)

The Senate aims to wrap up deliberations of the GAB by November 22, so the bicameral conference committee can convene around November 25 to 30 to iron out the differences in their versions of the measure.

Initially, Senator Panfilo Lacson suggested that the Senate adopts the House version of the budget to prevent the House from making further amendments to the GAB. But the senators disagreed with Lacson’s idea as they have their own proposals to tweak the budget.

Congressmen are said to introduce some P50 billion to P100 billion worth of amendments to the House-approved version, with Lacson urging his colleagues to make the bicam discussions public. (READ: Lacson rebuffs Congress: ‘Wrong’ to say House passed 2020 budget in record time–

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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