CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao congressmen protested the Marcos administration’s move to reduce the budgets for Mindanao and other regions in Luzon and the Visayas while substantially increasing the 2023 allocations for national government offices and the National Capital Region (NCR).
Mindanao saw the biggest reduction in the proposed P5.27-trillion budget, said Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez.
“There is no justification [for the proposed Mindanao budget reduction],” he told Rappler on Sunday, September 25.
The House committee on Mindanao affairs frowned upon the proposed budget, which showed the allocations for the six Southern Philippine regions down by 22.5%, from P811.3 billion in 2022 to P628.7 billion in 2023.
Members of the committee called on the national government to increase Mindanao’s 2023 budget or at least restore the P182.6 billion it slashed from the regions in the country’s second largest island.
Rodriguez called the proposed reduction “unfair and unjust.”
“Mindanao will be left behind again,” he said.
The following are the six Mindanao regions and their corresponding budget reductions:
- Davao region, -P50.2 billion
- Northern Mindanao, -P44 billion
- Caraga, -P36.6 billion
- Soccsksargen, -P19.6 billion
- Zamboanga Peninsula, -P18.2 billion
- BARMM, -P13.9 billion
The proposed budgets for the regions in the Visayas and Luzon were also reduced by a combined P378.8 billion, showed a September 14 memorandum sent by Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department deputy secretary-general Romulo Miral Jr. to the House Mindanao affairs committee.
Miral said that “the portion of the budget allocated to regions will decrease by 17.0% from P3,625.5 billion to P3,010.6 billion – with budget share likewise declining from 72.2% in 2022 to 57.1% in 2023.”
The national government, however, pushed for a 61.5% increase in the allocation for its departments and agencies in the proposed budget.
The document also showed the allocation for the NCR – the only region exempted from the planned budget reductions – increasing by P67.6 billion, from P922.2 billion to P989.8 billion. The NCR’s share represents 18.8% of the proposed national budget.
The memorandum addressed to the House committee chairman and Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Yasser Balindong showed that the nationwide lump sums and special purpose funds for the various government departments and agencies received the biggest chunk, at 35.5%, of the proposed P5.27-trillion budget.
Aside from that, the government’s central offices would also receive a 7.4% allocation or P388.7 billion. The allocation refers to “assets managed by heads of offices of departments and agencies.”
Balindong said the Mindanao congressmen would collectively appeal to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman not to reduce the proposed allocation for Mindanao.
Rodriguez said the last thing Mindanao needs is a significant reduction in its annual budget, given that it has seven of the country’s 10 poorest provinces.
Mindanao, which accounts for some 24% of the country’s population of nearly 110 million, contributes at least 17% of the national product and service outputs.
Congressmen said they worried that budget cuts would adversely affect important government services throughout Mindanao.
Rodriguez noted that despite the increase in the proposed budget for national government departments, some stand to receive insufficient allocations.
He cited the case of the Department of Health (DOH), which was given a P301-billion allocation, a P44-billion reduction compared to its 2022 budget.
The amount “may not be enough for the medical and health needs of 109 million Filipinos,” he said.
Cagayan de Oro’s 2nd District alone, he said, needs at least P21.5 million from the DOH to upgrade health facilities.
In Basilan, the government has yet to upgrade the province’s DOH-run general hospital 24 years after Congress passed a measure that mandated it.
Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman said the DOH committed to upgrading the Basilan General Hospital (BGH) and increasing its bed capacity to 100 beds by November 2022.
The hospital upgrade is long overdue, given that the measure was approved by Congress in 1998, said Hataman.
But with the move to slash Mindanao’s and DOH’s budgets in 2023, the fate of BGH and other state-run hospitals in Mindanao remains uncertain. – Rappler.com