2020 budget: Where will the money go?

AT A GLANCE

  • The education and infrastructure sector continued to receive the biggest chunk of the 2020 P4.1-trillion national budget. The two sectors alone comprise more than a fourth of the fiscal plan.
  • Generally, most government agencies received budget hikes.
  • President Rodrigo Duterte's P4.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds was approved by lawmakers without a hitch.

The Philippines needs to play catch-up, after the government operated under a reenacted budget for 4 months in 2019.

This will reflect on the priorities of the P4.1-trillion budget for 2020.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11465 on Monday, January 6. The delay in the signing of the budget bill prompted the government to operate under a reenacted budget again, but, according to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, the weeklong delay wouldn't have much of an impact on operations.

The 2020 General Appropriations Act is P438 billion or 11.8% higher than the P3.662-trillion national budget for 2019. It represents 19.4% of the country's projected gross domestic product this year.

Similar to budgets of previous years, the 2020 appropriations law prioritized education, infrastructure, and interior affairs. The winner of them all, however, was the Department of Public Works and Highways, as it gained the most funds compared to other agencies.

While the full copy of the 2020 budget has yet to be released, Rappler was able to acquire a copy of the bicameral conference committee report on the fiscal plan. 

Richest agencies

As usual, it's the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) that received the biggest allocations in the 2020 budget.

The education sector got P654.77 billion, a combined allocation from the DepEd and its attached agencies (P521.35 billion), the State Universities and Colleges (P73.72 billion), and the Commission on Higher Education (P46.73 billion).

It is followed by DPWH, the infrastructure arm of the government, with P580.89 billion. The education and infrastructure sectors combined alreadyy amounted to more than a fourth of the fiscal plan.

Budgets for DILG and the Department of National Defense ranked a far 3rd and 4th from the first two sectors. DILG's budget stands at P239.64, more than three-fourths of which (P187.33 billion) will go to the Philippine National Police. Meanwhile, the budget for national defense is pegged at P191.74 billion.

Social services received a considerable amount in the budget as well, with the Department of Health getting a combined allocation of P172.37 billion for the implementation of the Universal Health Care law. DOH's actual budget is P101.02 billion while the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (Philhealth) budget is P71.35 billion.

The chart below ranks the top 10 departments with the biggest allocations in 2020:

Winners

Generally, most government agencies received higher budgets in 2020, with the exception of the Commission on Elections, DBM, Ombudsman, Department of Finance, and the Civil Service Commission.

It appeared that the DPWH was the winner among all departments, with over a billion increase from its 2019 budget. It is followed by the Department of Transportation with a budget hike of P31.73 billion, bringing its total funds to P99.4 billion.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development received the 3rd highest increase at P22.65 billion.

Infrastructure

DPWH, the top gainer this year, has an approved appropriation of P580.89 billion for 2020. It's P116.33 billion (25%) higher than last year.

The multibillion increase may be traced back to the controversies hounding the 2019 budget.

When last year's budget was signed in April 2019, the President vetoed programs and projects worth P95.3 billion under the budget of DPWH, which the senators alleged were insertions from the House of Representatives at that time.

Over the course of the budget deliberations, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said in September 2019 that the vetoed allocations in last year's budget may not be reinstated in the 2020 budget. 

In late September 2019, the lower chamber passed their version of the budget bill with minimal amendments, and took some P3.75 billion originally set for right-of-way funds under the DPWH.

But by the looks of it, the DPWH bounced back. The allocation for public works increased – higher than the vetoed amount in 2019.

Under the original proposal, the DBM allocated new appropriations worth P533.5 billion for DPWH. When congressmen passed the budget bill, they decreased allocations by P3.75 billion, but by the end of the bicam discussions, lawmakers decided to give the department a net increase of P51 billion, bringing sums to a total of P580.89 billion.

The infrastructure sector has a lot of catching up to do with the government's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program. The 4-month budget delay in 2019 held back construction for new programs.

According to the DBM, about one-third of DPWH's funds (P203.8 billion) will be used for its network development and bridge programs.

Part of its funds for 2020 is the "special road fund" worth P15.57 billion. This was from the motor vehicle users' charge, transferred from the abolished Road Board. Under the special provisions, this money may be earmarked solely for the construction, upgrading, and repair of roads, bridges, and drainages.

Education

DepEd's budget for this year stands at P521.35 billion, or about P20 billion more than the 2019 budget of P501.12 billion.

During budget deliberations, DepEd sought congressional approval of additional funds worth P30 billion, higher than the amount the DBM proposed under NEP, which was P518.84 billion at that time.

DepEd said then that it will use the extra funds for its computerization program and human resource development, among others. The fund will also be used to create additional teaching positions, but to date, there are over 59,026 vacancies within the department.

The latest Commission on Audit report also found that at least 4.8% of the education department's 2018 budget was unused, mainly due to unimplemented projects and unfilled permanent positions.

While the P30-billion request was not granted, DepEd's approved budget was still P2.5 billion higher than the originally proposed amount by the DBM. 

Under the approved fiscal plan, at least P36 billion was allocated for the free tuition law program this year.

For teachers, those teaching for more than 6 hours would receive extra compensation. In the special provisions, every hour spent would be paid with 25% of the teacher's hourly rate, but still subject to DepEd guidelines.

Agriculture

The appointment of Agriculture Secretary William Dar seemed to bring back the economic managers' trust in the department.

The Department of Agriculture received an increase of P15 billion from last year's P47.29 billion, bringing its total funds to P62.29 billion.

Under resigned DA secretary Emmanuel Piñol, 2019 funds were decreased because of DA's poor spending performance in the past years, which was at 55.1% in 2017 and 66.2% in 2018.

This year, DA's budget includes the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. It also includes some P3 billion to be disbursed as cash grants to farmers affected by the rice tariffication law.

The "Young Farmers Challenge" program was also funded with P100 million, in a bid to encourage the Filipino youth to stay or return to the agriculture sector. (READ: Birth pains force farmers' kids out of school)

Meanwhile, the National Food Authority, a government corporation attached to DA, would receive less subsidy from the government in 2020. The appropriated amount for this year is only P7 billion, down from 2019's P10 billion.

Social welfare

DSWD has a total budget of P163.811 bilion, a P22.65 billion increase from last year's P141.21 billion.

At least a fifth of its budget would go to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, commonly known as 4Ps, in the form of financial assistance instead of rice subsidy.

On top of DSWD's budget, some P36.5 billion was lodged under the Land Bank of the Philippines for its unconditional cash transfer program. The fund was placed under Landbank for easier disbursement to beneficiaries.

Office of the President

The Office of the President may have not gotten the highest budgetary increase, but it's worth noting that its proposed P8.28-billion funds was approved without a hitch.

Duterte's confidential and intelligence funds comprise more than half of the entire OP budget at P2.25 billion each, for a total of P4.5 billion. (READ: Duterte's office has highest confidential, intel funds in proposed 2020 budget)

The OP allocation for intelligence funds is even higher than the declared amount for the DND (P1.7 billion) and PNP (P806 million). (READ: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?) (To be concluded) – with a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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