Senate OKs P2.006T budget

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The enactment of the 2013 national budget is on track, with the Senate approving the P2.006 trillion budget on third and final reading.

In a vote of 14-1, the Senate passed the budget on Wednesday, November 28. Only Sen Joker Arroyo dissented.

The budget was passed just a week after Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen Franklin sponsored it in plenary.

The approval is well within the timetable of the Aquino administration to pass the measure before the end of the year to avoid using a reenacted budget. The President certified the bill urgent. 

Drilon said the budget allocates P698.4 billion or 34.8% for social services.

This amount includes the P44.25 billion allotted to the conditional cash transfer program, the administration’s centerpiece poverty alleviation measure.

Drilon said the budget will address the shortage in public school teachers, classrooms, textbooks, and provide funds for the K+12 education program and public health.

He added that the budget will help 3 million indigent families, with additional funding given for public hospitals.

The following is the budget breakdown per department:

Xerox-copy budgets?

Arroyo voted no to the bill, echoing the criticism earlier raised by Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago that the Senate version was almost similar to those proposed by the Palace and passed by the House of Representatives in October.

In explaining his vote, Arroyo said, “All these 3 look alike as if they are Xerox copies. Aren’t we expected to scrutinize and if need be, make changes thereon?”

Arroyo said he also opposed the “gargantuan lump sum appropriations” in the budget and the “executive encroachment” on the legislature.

“It took the Senate only 5 days of passive plenary deliberations, from sponsorship to period of amendments, to complete the debate on P1,368,328,156.00 budget for 2013. In contrast, we spent 2 weeks of heated debate on the P40 billion sin tax measure,” Arroyo said.

Earlier, Santiago also warned against a “rubber stamp” Congress, calling for a “laser approach” to scrutinizing the budget.

In response, Drilon just rejected the criticism.

“The President enjoys very broad support. Our economy is doing very well. Third quarter GDP growth is 7.1%, the highest in the past decade, which means the President deserves all the support from Congress,” Drilon told reporters.  

Smooth bicam

Now that the Senate passed the budget, the bicameral conference committee will reconcile this with the House version. It will then be ratified before being submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for signing.

Drilon said the bicameral proceedings will begin next week. He announced that the members of the bicameral conference committee are himself, and Senators Edgardo Angara, Ralph Recto, Teofisto Guingona III, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

The senator expects smooth bicameral conference committee deliberations, saying there are no major differences between the House and the Senate versions.

“Since the budget from the House is almost the same, the bicameral conference committee will not have a hard time. We will begin if not tomorrow, then next week.”

Drilon said in past interviews that the President is scheduled to sign the 2013 national budget into law on December 20. – Rappler.com