House ratifies proposed P3.35T budget for 2017

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives ratified the proposed P3.35-trillion budget for 2017 through an ayes and nays vote on Tuesday, December 13. 

This comes after the following lawmakers, representing the chamber in the bicameral conference committee, approved the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017:

Agriculture, education, and peace and order are among the budget priorities of the Duterte administration. The top gainers in next year's budget are the Office of the President and the education and public works departments. 

In a statement, House appropriations chair Nograles said congressmen originally wanted to allot P8.3 billion for development projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to follow the wishes of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

However, the congressmen conceded to the senators in the bicameral conference committee. The senators wanted the P8.3 billion to be allocated to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) instead. (READ: 2017 budget: CHED loses P2B meant for PCARI, K to 12 transition)

"We are one with the position of President Duterte that we really need to develop Mindanao if we want to defeat the insurgency problem in the region, which is why we programmed infrastructure projects in Mindanao, including the ARMM. But some members of the Senate opined that this could be in violation of the ARMM Organic Act,” said Nograles. 

“This created some sort of deadlock as the House stood its ground since we saw nothing in the Organic Act of the ARMM that prohibits the national government from implementing infrastructure projects in ARMM, especially if identified in the medium-term development plan. In the end, we decided to give in just so that a budget is passed because we do not want a re-enacted budget," he added.

The P8.3-billion additional CHED budget would be used to finance free tuition for students in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) as well as for other incentives and grants. 

Nograles, however, expressed reservations if the additional funds would be implemented properly.

"It's a good concept to have free tuition fees for all students in our SUCs, but I'm really worried if the fund is actually enough or if it will be properly implemented. The worst thing that can happen is if this fund becomes underutilized or underspent. That’s why we need to watch closely how this fund will be used. Otherwise, it will go to waste,” Nograles said.

The Senate is expected to ratify the proposed 2017 budget on Wednesday, December 14, the last day of session before Congress adjourns for the Christmas break. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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