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MANILA, Philippines — Amid calls to scrap the P731-billion worth of unprogrammed funds in the 2024 national expenditure program, House Speaker Martin Romualdez explained that it would be used to augment the government’s social amelioration programs.
In an interview with DZBB SuperRadyo on Tuesday, December 19, Romualdez said the funds would help build “safety nets” for Filipinos amid the rising cost of living. This is on top of the P500 billion already allocated to assist millions of low-income families in the country.
“[Ito ay] para maka-augment at reinforce… kasi ito ang nakikita natin na importansya po ng ating budget efforts ay tulong talaga sa poorest of the poor tsaka ‘yung very, very vulnerable sa inflationary effects ng pagtataas ng bilihin,” Romualdez said.
(This will augment and reinforce [our programs]…. because giving help to the poorest of the poor and those who are very, very vulnerable to the inflationary effects of price hikes is important in our efforts to budget.)
Unprogrammed appropriations or standby funds usually stem from the government exceeding revenues and when the country gets additional grants from foreign funds, according to the Department of Budget and Management. These may be used to finance the administration’s priority programs.
“Hindi ‘yan dadaan pa sa bidding, hindi ‘yan dadaan sa kung anong proseso. Diretso sa ating mga taumbayan na nahihirapan,” Romualdez said.
(These funds will not go through bidding anymore, there won’t be additional processes. This will go straight to our struggling countrymen.)
A couple of lawmakers from both houses of Congress flagged the P449-billion increase in the proposed unprogrammed funds. In the House of Representatives’ version of the 2024 budget, only P281.9 billion was allocated to the funds.
Gabriela Woman’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas called it a “Marcosian standby pork” kept ahead of the upcoming midterm polls.
“This certainly dwarfs the total confidential funds in the final budget,” she said in a statement last week, adding that it is also bigger than the budgets for the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Health combined.
Romualdez said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is slated to sign the country’s 2024 budget program by Wednesday, December 20. – Rappler.com