Senate-House Bicameral conference committee okays P3.002-trillion 2016 national budget

Bicameral conference committee okays proposed 2016 national budget.

The proposed 2016 national budget on Wednesday was approved ahead of schedule by members of the bicameral conference committee.

The consolidated report, which contains the details of next year’s P3.002-trillion budget, is expected to be ratified by both chambers on or before December 16, before Congress goes on Christmas break.

House Appropriations committee chairman and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said the Senate made around P60 billion in cuts, but later restored 80 percent of this amount.

Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on Finance, said the 2016 national budget puts focus on infrastructure, education, social welfare and responding to climate change.

This after the final figure in the budget reflected a P1-billion cut in the appropriations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from the original request of P22.84 billion.

While Ungab boasted about the P4 billion additional pension for veterans under the item Pension and Gratuity Fund, the final figure in the bicam report showed this was actually slashed by P4 billion — from P113.97 billion to P109.97 billion — with the amount transferred to the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund.

When asked to explain this, Ungab said the cut was made “upon the request of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide for the salary increase” of state personnel under the soon-to-be-passed SSL.

Senator Ralph Recto inquired about the proposal to remove the P30-billion appropriation for Risk Management Fund under the un-programmed funds.

The fund was put up to cover government obligations to the private sector in relation to public-private partnership projects and contracts. The lump sum falls under the national budget’s Special Purpose Funds item.

Recto said it was not necessary to place an appropriation in the item since the government “does not know yet who it was paying for.”

Legarda said the Senate contingent supported Recto’s proposal but their House counterparts restored the P30-billion appropriation.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile made a pitch to increase the budget of the Philippine National Police hospital, saying his 13 months in detention at the facility exposed him to its dire condition.

He also batted for the doubling of the budget of the Office of the Vice President, saying the second highest official in the land “deserves better than just the miniscule budget given to him, whoever he may be.”

Under the 2016 budget, the Office of the Vice President is allotted P500 million, little more than double its current budget of P230 million.

But Enrile’s proposal for P10 billion more to allow the Philippine Air Force to procure at least four fighter jets was slashed to P1 billion, prompting the Senate Minority leader to call it “a joke, an embarrassing signal that this Congress is giving to the security of this country.”

“What good are all your programs to alleviate poverty, improve education, if you can’t protect the people from possible occupation?” he asked.

However, Legarda and Ungab stood path that only P1 billion could be added to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization, because giving it more would mean slashing the budget of other programs such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

Enrile left the room after saying his piece.


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