A look at the 2017 budget: Will it help Duterte fulfill his promises?

Pia Ranada

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A look at the 2017 budget: Will it help Duterte fulfill his promises?
Take a look at how the P3.35-trillion national budget has been allocated to fulfill some of President Duterte's promises

MANILA, Philippines – The country begins 2017 with a brand new national budget, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte before the 2016 holidays.

The P3.35 trillion budget, the first to be approved under Duterte’s watch, is the highest budget given to an administration. How has it been allocated to fulfill the many promises Duterte has made to the Filipino people?

Rappler takes a close look at the 2017 General Appropriations Act and compares it to the 2016 General Appropriations Act to see what changes the Duterte administration has brought to the budget to fulfill the President’s vows to citizens. 

How much larger are funds for law enforcement agencies this year so they can continue waging the “war on drugs”?

Will the bigger budget be felt in places like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao after Duterte promised development in all corners of the country? How much will be allocated to the popular conditional cash transfer program?

Top 5 most well-funded agencies

Duterte previously said, if elected president, he would make agriculture, education, and health his 3 top budget priorities. In the 2017 budget, the Department of Education makes it to the top 5 most well-funded agencies.

While the agriculture and health departments are not on the list, funds for agriculture and health have made their way to other programs not necessarily under the two departments.

Funds for campaign promises

Is Duterte’s determination to fulfill his campaign promises reflected in the budgets for agencies that will be fulfilling these promises?

A comparison of the 2017 and 2016 budgets shows increases in almost all agencies and programs that have to do with his campaign pledges – from suppressing illegal drugs to spending more on transportation infrastructure.

Changes in budget from 2016 to 2017:


Suppress drugs, crime by March 2017 (new date due to extension)

Budgets of crime-fighting agencies increased substantially, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency budget, for instance, posting an almost 100% increase. Duterte’s own confidential and intelligence funds are 400% higher than former President Benigno Aquino III’s last year.

Philippine National Police

  • 2017: P111.6 billion
  • 2016: P88.5 billion
  • Up by 26% 

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency

  • 2017: P1.8 billion
  • 2016: P957.1 million
  • Up by 92%

Dangerous Drugs Board

  • 2017: P125.1 million
  • 2016: P115.2 million
  • Up by 8.6%

Office of the President’s confidential and intelligence funds

  • 2017: P2.5 billion
  • 2016: P500 million
  • Up by 400%

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency

  • 2017: P793.7 million
  • 2016: P581.9 million
  • Up by 36% 

Rehabilitate drug addicts

Rehabilitation of drug addicts is phase 2 of the campaign against illegal drugs, according to the Palace. 

  • DDB funds for drug rehabilitation centers: P77 million
  • Department of Health treatment and rehabilitation centers: P2.6 billion

Double salaries of military and police in 3 years

  • Combat duty and combat incentive pay of military and police: P12.1 billion

Talk peace with Communist Party of the Philippines, Moro separatist groups

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

  • 2017: P8.1 billion
  • 2016: P767.9 million
  • Up by 950% 

The huge increase is because of the P7 billion for PAMANA projects to be implemented by OPAPP. In previous years, OPAPP merely monitored the projects while they were implemented by other agencies.

PAMANA is a program that funds infrastructure and social development projects in conflict areas in the belief that peace can only be achieved by addressing poverty, one of the causes of violence in the areas.

Decentralize economic growth

Internal Revenue Allotment for local governments 

  • 2017: P486.9 billion
  • 2016: P428.6 billion
  • Up by 13.6% 

Local Government Support Fund

  • 2017: P39.7 billion
  • 2016: P19.1 billion
  • Up by 108%

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

  • 2017: P32.3 billion
  • 2016: P28.5 billion
  • Up by 13.2%

Mindanao Development Authority

  • 2017: P170.4 million
  • 2016: P117.2 million
  • Up by 45%

Prioritize education

Department of Education

  • 2017: P544.1 billion
  • 2016: P411.9 billion
  • Up by 32% 

Commission on Higher Education

  • 2017: P18.7 billion
  • 2016: P5.6 billion
  • Up by 234%

P8.3 billion of CHED budget for free tuition for college students in state universities and colleges

State universities and colleges

  • 2017: P58.7 billion (increase is for scholarship funds and capital outlay)
  • 2016: P47.4 billion
  • Up by 24%

Improve Conditional Cash Transfer program

Department of Social Welfare and Development

  • 2017: P128.3 billion
  • 2016: P110.8 billion
  • Up by 16%

Conditional Cash Transfer program

  • 2017: P78.2 billion
  • 2016: P62.7 billion
  • Up by 25%

Prioritize health, improve access of poor to free healthcare

Department of Health

  • 2017 (including PhilHealth): P149.5 billion
  • 2016 (including PhilHealth): P125.5 billion
  • Up by 19%

Health Facilities Enhancement Program

  • 2017: P24.2 billion
  • 2016: P26.9 billion
  • Down by 10%

Assistance to Indigent Patients

  • 2017: P4 billion
  • 2016: P2.8 billion
  • Up by 43%

The P3 billion increase for PhilHealth was approved to cover all Filipinos in a “universal healthcare program” and so that “indigent patients will not have to pay for anything in government hospitals under the No Balance Billing (NBB) policy,” said Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda.

P4 billion was allocated for “assistance to indigent patients,” an increase from the P2.9 allocation in 2016.

P1.5 billion was also allocated for the Doctors to the Barrio program, construction of additional health facilities, and medical assistance to indigent patients, added Legarda.

Improve transportation, development infrastructure to spread economic growth, decongest Metro Manila

Department of Public Works and Highways

  • 2017: P454.7 billion
  • 2016: P384.3 billion
  • Up by 18%

Department of Transportation

  • 2017: P53.3 billion
  • 2016: P42.6 billion
  • Up by 25%

P850 billion was allocated for the construction of road networks in cities and provinces, sea ports, airports, school buildings, and hospitals.

Provide free irrigation

  • P2 billion subsidy allocated to subsidize irrigation fees

Help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

Department of Trade and Industry

  • 2017: P4.7 billion
  • 2016: P4.2 billion
  • Up by 12%

Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council Fund

  • 2017: P21.3 million
  • 2016: 21.3 million
  • No change

P1 billion was allocated under the Small Business Corporation “so it can provide loans at almost no interest to microenterprises,” said Legarda.

Fight terrorism, secure national borders

Department of National Defense

  • 2017: P137.2 billion
  • 2016: P117.5 billion
  • Up by 17%

Help overseas Filipino workers

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

  • 2017: P579.5 million
  • 2016: P487.1 million
  • Up by 19%

Commission on Filipinos Overseas

  • 2017: P84.3 million
  • 2016: P86.2 million
  • Down by 2.1%

Notables about Duterte’s first budget

Higher than usual funds for social protection

Social Watch Philippines (SWP), a non-governmental organization scrutinizing national budgets since 2006, spotted some unique characteristics of the 2017 budget.

Among recent administrations, the Duterte administration has allotted the biggest percentage of its budget to social services.

Based on SWP’s analysis, P1.3 trillion or 40% of the national budget is for “education spending, health care spending and social protection like direct cash transfers,” said Isagani Serrano, Social Watch Philippines co-convener and president of Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.

“Compared to previous budgets, that’s bigger. During the Aquino administration, it did not hit 40%, it was always around 30%. It was even lower during Gloria [Macapagal Arroyo’s] time,” he told Rappler.

He commended the administration for higher conditional cash transfer funds, new rice grant funds under CCT, and the P19.4 billion Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities.

“It’s going to help because that’s a direct transfer. Any additional transfer to the poor municipalities, any real transfer that happens to the poor is something to be welcomed for us,” he said.

Serrano thinks the large budgets for education, health, and social services go well with the Duterte administration’s goal of bringing down the country’s poverty rate to 14% in 2022 from 21.6% in 2015. But he thinks the government can do better.

“This is a huge promise and the government can be probably commended for putting it at that ambition level, but for us, it’s still not ambitious enough. We want to see extreme poverty ended under the Duterte regime,” said Serrano.

Is government funding the right infrastructure?

The P850-billion infrastructure budget seems poised to create more jobs and spur development in key parts of the country. But Serrano wonders if it’s funding the kind of infrastructure that will bring about inclusive economic growth.

He pointed out that a majority of the infra budget is for road network services, not public transportation systems.

“If it’s big infra, we want to see it in mass transit, in ports, because we are an archipelago so we want a development of the port system and then the train system. We don’t want expansion of highways,” said Serrano.

More highways create an incentive for car ownership which he said practically translates to “an indirect subsidy to the rich” rather than the pro-poor public transit systems like trains and sea ports.

SWP also wanted to see more funds for light infrastructure: rural roads, electrification, and sanitation and water infrastructure.

Funds prone to abuse

While Duterte continues to sound the call against corruption, Serrano said one needs only to look at the 2017 budget to see windows of opportunity for abusive spending practices.

For instance, he criticized the “highly discretionary” intelligence and confidential funds under the Office of the President, which posted a 400% increase compared to 2016.

Because of the sensitive nature of the funds, they can only be looked into by the Commission on Audit chairperson. But for Serrano, these funds can and should be explained after they are spent.

“In the pre-audit, maybe not, we can understand because that will compromise whatever plans they have. But after, there should be an accounting for it,” he said.

Another red flag for Serrano is the supposed pork barrel-like funds for ARMM infrastructure projects that had been lodged in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The roughly P9-billion funds were questioned by Senator Panfilo Lacson to the point that come bicameral committee, members of the House of Representatives who pushed for the funds agreed to transfer the funds to the Commission on Higher Education for free tuition in state-run universities.

But SWP pointed out that, despite this move, DPWH was able to retain the P9 billion because of other additions to its budget.

SWP shares Lacson’s concern that this additional budget likely came from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (Calamity) Fund which experienced a large cut – from a proposed budget of P37.255 billion to a mere P15.755 billion in the signed 2017 budget law. That’s a cut of P21.5 billion.

Serrano doesn’t buy the House of Representatives’ reasoning that just because projects are itemized means they are not prone to pork-like practices.

“This is probably all itemized, in that sense, it’s not pork. But if they have a connection to the projects because they were the ones who proposed it and that’s been pre-arranged with contractors, that’s the thing worth watching,” said Serrano.

With the budget allocated, citizens should be on the lookout for how government money is spent. Only the implementation of funded programs will show if the 2017 national budget helped fulfill President Duterte’s promises to the people. – Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.