2018 Budget is ratified by Congress

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HOR plenary hall
Joint session of both chambers of Congress is held at the House of Representative plenary hall. Photo/Boy Santos, Philstar

MANILA, Philippines – After resolving their respective different versions of the proposed 2018 national budget, the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the prospective PhP3.767-trillion appropriation on Tuesday, December 12.

The measure is to be sent to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature on December 19.

“President Duterte can proudly affix his signature to this measure on December 19 following its ratification,” Davao Representative Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chairman, said.

Nograles said the new budget will have P1.2 billion as additional fund for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the law enforcement agency leading the fight against illegal drugs.

P900 million removed from the budget of the Philippine National Police’s drug campaign has been channeled to housing projects for military and uniformed personnel. There will also be an increase of P850 million for the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of police stations all over the country.

Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, will have P40 billion to cover the free tuition and miscellaneous fees of college students in all State Colleges and Universities (SUCs) nationwide.

The 2018 budget will also ensure the implementation of free Wifi for all SUCs amounting to P327 million.

It also set aside P62 billion for the increase of military and uniformed personnel’s (MUP) base pay beginning January 1, 2018.

Over at the Senate, The chair of the committee on finance, Sen. Loren Legarda, gave a summary of the revisions as embodied in the bicameral conference committee.

Before the ratification vote, however, Sen. Panfilo Lacson made a manifestation on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Lacson lamented that he was not given time to scrutinize the bicameral budget report, as he only got a copy of it late Monday, and the members of the bicameral committee were already expected to sign it Tuesday morning.

Lacson said he discovered that all the amendments he introduced in the DPWH budget were restored; in fact, the agency’s budget was even augmented by P11 billion.

Lacson had earlier questioned the DPWH budget because it contained funding for right of way where the supposed beneficiaries are simply tagged “John Does,” or the fund was presented as just a lump sum with no clear itemization of what will be funded.

According to the law, Lacson stressed, no funds should be disbursed for right of way beneficiaries when the issues for ROW have not been fully settled.

Lacson asked Legarda for an itemized listing of where the P11-billion additional budget for DPWH is to be spent for.

Legarda committed to show the breakdown to Lacson within the week.

Congress goes on Christmas break December. 14 and is to return mid-January.

“All the amendments I introduced were restored and an additional P11 billion was added to the budget of the DPWH. I want to find out the details of the P11 billion plus the P50.7 billion that was slashed in the plenary during the introduction of amendments, plus the P18 billion in flood management projects,” Lacson said.