Here are the highlights of Senator Legarda's sponsorship speech on the GAB
Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said that the proposed 2018 national budget amounting to P3.767 Trillion is one that aims to address the basic needs of the people.
Legarda sponsored the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) under Senate Committee Report No. 167.
"We fashioned a budget that we believe will translate the soaring rhetoric of our leaders into something solid. It is a budget that addresses the basics. It is a budget where we made room and space to keep those who are in the cold, warm; to feed those who are hungry and dispossessed; a budget that reduces enmity and restores the peace," she stressed.
"To reduce inequality, we at the Committee level supported many of the proposals of the President and the budget refinements proposed by our colleagues in the Lower House, but we also made sure those are aligned with the results of the Senate's own consultations--the public hearings--that we conducted," she added.
Legarda said that there is P40 Billion funding for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which would pave the way for free college education in all of the country's state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs) and state-run technical-vocational institutions.
The Senate also provided additional P10 Million for capital outlay and free Wi-Fi for all SUCs. For teachers, additional P770 Million was provided in the Department of Education (DepEd) budget to increase the chalk allowance from P2,500 to P3,500.
There is additional Three Billion Pesos in the Philhealth budget so that all Filipinos are covered by its Point-of-Service program; Two Billion Pesos Irrigation Fees Subsidy in the budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) so that irrigation service fees will no longer be collected by NIA from farmers' associations; and One Billion Pesos for the Small Business Corporation's Pondo Para sa Pagbabago to boost the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) budget for Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) amounts to P89.408 Billion, of which P31.68 Billion is for rice subsidy.
Legarda also pushed for additional P2 Billion for the DSWD's Protective Social Welfare Program for the repair, rehabilitation and construction of all its centers nationwide.
"After the repair, rehabilitation, and construction are done, we expect the Department to make available at these centers the services of a respectable shelter: access to water and electricity, working toilets, beds, proper ventilation, adequate lighting, and other essentials. We expect nothing extravagant; just what is basic and humane. We have to treat our poor with dignity," she said.
An amount of P270 Million for the Early Childhood Care and Development/Nutrition Package for the First 1000 Days have been set aside under the National Nutrition Council that will benefit the 16,419 barangays worst-hit by malnutrition.
"We have also provided funding for the pension of centenarians; full payment of total administrative disability arrears for the surviving spouses of World War II veterans; construction of a veterans hospital in Mindanao; and hazard pay for foreign service employees in hardship posts, among others. We also increased the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Shared Service Facilities (SSF) to increase the productivity of MSMEs, including those affected in the Marawi crisis," said Legarda.
The proposed 2018 national budget also provides funding for the rehabilitation of Marawi City. There is Ten Billion Pesos under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund; P500-Million subsidy for a loan facility for Marawi residents, under the auspices of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). This is a zero-interest loan facility that Marawi residents can avail for the repair or reconstruction of damaged homes; and Five Million Pesos under the Mindanao State University (MSU) for cultural mapping of the intangible and tangible heritage--all memories and materials left by the war that engulfed Marawi.
"We also support the funding needs of the police because we want an efficient, well-equipped police force to protect us," said Legarda as the Committee approved funding for the hiring of 10,000 new Police Officer 1 recruits to achieve an improved police to population ratio; P900 Million for the Philippine National Police's (PNP) anti-illegal drugs campaign; P100 Million for purchase of closed-circuit television (CCTV) for the PNP command center; P50 Million for the acquisition of body cameras for police in highly urbanized areas; and P47.734 Million for the PNP Women and Children Protection Center.
The Senator, who is a staunch and long-time environmentalist, also ensured funding to integrate and mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in government programs.
The Senate supported the Executive Branch's proposal to provide P1.5 Billion for the PAGASA Modernization Program; P1.5 Billion for the Metro Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) flood control program; and P285 Million to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for geo-hazard mapping and assessment.
Moreover, in the interest of ensuring that the Quick Response Fund (QRF) would be quickly accessed and utilized by the agency that needs it, the Senate restored the 2016 arrangement, where the QRF is lodged in individual agencies.
For 2018, the DepEd will have P2 Billion QRF; P1.250 Billion for DSWD; one billion each for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); P750 Million for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); P500 Million each for the Department of Health (DOH), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), and NIA; and P100 Million for the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
Legarda also said that while the Senate supports increased infrastructure spending to herald the so-called Golden Age of Infrastructure, it introduced a special provision as one of the safeguards against waste of public funds.
"We included a special provision that requires all government agencies with infrastructure projects to post in their official websites the status of such projects, including geo-tagged photos, contractors' names, projects' cost and location, and projects' start and target date of completion," she said.
"Through this budget, we hope to effect real change among those who genuinely need the government's preferential care and support--the 21.9 million poor Filipinos--the farmers, fisherfolks, children, self-employed and unpaid family workers, women, the youth, migrant and formal sector workers, senior citizens, and the urban residents. We also hope that agencies and departments of government will be able to immediately address the challenges that hinder them from fully utilizing their budget, so that they may be able to efficiently deliver the services to our people," Legarda concluded.
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Photo courtesy of the Office of Senator Loren Legarda