MANILA, Philippines – Does he wish he could have allotted a bigger budget for the Department of Defense (DND) amid the ongoing tension in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea)?
Budget Secretary Butch Abad didn’t categorically answer the question posed by a reporter Tuesday, June 10. Abad, however, said in the first place, the DND “has been getting allocations that they’ve never had before.”
Abad noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act, the amendments to which remain pending in Congress, will allot P78-B for the Philippine military’s 5-year modernization program. This will give the DND a P15-B budget annually to modernize its operations, he said.
“But you know, the budget of DND by itself does not speak for the strengthening of the monitoring and security in the West Philippine Sea,” Abad said.
The budget chief cited President Benigno Aquino III’s allocation of P1.6-B for the Philippine Coast Guard’s budget for South China Sea operations. He also said the Philippines has strengthened the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
These improvements come alongside a US commitment to help the Philippines build a new National Coast Watch Center, as promised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Read: US to help build PH Coast Watch.)
Military over schools?
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, finds the current DND budget insufficient given the Philippines’ security concerns. He suggests allocating the biggest chunk of the national budget to defense. Currently, it goes to education.
In an earlier interview, Enrile suggested Charter change to amend provisions on budget.
“When we have a security problem and we have to spend money far beyond the needs of education because we want to protect the country and her people, are we going to rapidly amend the Constitution under that limitation? These things are serious and very dangerous provisions that we have to address,” Enrile said.
Abad, for his part, said Aquino maintains his initial position on Charger change. “He doesn’t consider Charter change a priority,” said Abad, citing surveys that rank constitutional amendments “very low” among Filipinos’ concerns.
“The President wants to focus on those areas which have been clearly and emphatically identified by the people and the business community as areas that need urgent changes, like corruption, the problem of poverty, the problem of red tape,” Abad explained.
Under the Philippines’ budget in 2012, as well as the proposed 2013 budget, the DND gets the third highest share. It has P108.1-B in 2012 and is proposed to be given P121.6-B in 2013.
The Department of Education, on the other hand, has the biggest share with P238.8-B in 2012 and a proposed P292.7-B in 2013. (Read: Proposed 2013 budget is P2.006-trillion.) — Rappler.com
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