MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on second reading on Wednesday, October 5, the proposed P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017.
House Bill 3408 or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017 was approved a past 7 pm through a viva voce vote after almost 9 hours of interpellations during the plenary session.
The lawmakers were able to beat their deadline, finishing the plenary deliberations for all government departments and their attached agencies after just 8 days.
House committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles said he was "happy" for the swift passage of the budget bill on second reading.
"This budget will fuel our quest for reforms that would uplift the lives of our people and fight the many evils of plaguing our nation such as drugs, crime and corruption. This is one big step towards the fulfillment of our aspirations as a nation," Nograles said.
The proposed 2017 budget is 11.6% higher than the 2016 budget and represents 21% of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) next year.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno explained that the 2017 budget was crafted to complement Duterte's 10-point agenda. (READ: 2017 budget priorities: Infrastructure, agriculture, peace and order)
From P758.4 billion in 2016, the proposed budget for public infrastructure next year is higher at P860.7 billion or about 5.4% of GDP. Agriculture and rural development will be allotted P120.5 billion.
The Duterte administration, which has declared a war on drugs and crime, also wants to give P206.6 billion for public order and safety.
In his turno en contra speech, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez acknowledged that the proposed budget reflects the priorities of the Duterte administration, but he expressed some reservations on how it will be used.
“We are concerned with how the money will be spent and how the government will implement specific programs in line with national development,” said Suarez.
While the Minority Leader praised Duterte for his implementation of the war on drugs, Suarez said the minority bloc is yet to see the President as a true “general manager.” (READ: Minority on Duterte's 100 days: 'A' in drug war, inadequate in other sectors)
“It is clear that the drug problem is a priority concern. However, running the government involves other priorities,” said Suarez.
“While there is no reason to question the competence of Cabinet secretaries, we emphasize that the President is chief executive. However, we wonder when will we see the President transition from a crime fighter into a general manager of the country?” he lamented.
Suarez then advised the Duterte administration to ensure that its programs would be geared toward “progressive realization.”
“The approach should not be focused solely on illegal drugs, but should encompass other national issues like the very apparent transportation problem, unending poverty and hunger, inadequate and infeective flood control, the most sought after tax-reform, criminality, widespread corruption, and substandard, inadeuate military supplies in government facilities,” he said.
The House of Representatives is expected to tackle the proposed 2017 budget on 3rd and final reading during the next plenary session on October 10. – Rappler.com