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House begins hearings Tuesday on proposed P3.767-T 2018 budget

The House of Representatives will start tomorrow its scrutiny of the 2018 proposed national budget of P3.767 trillion, dubbed as The Budget that Reforms and Transforms, which was submitted by President Rodrigo Duterte to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III at the culmination of his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week.

The budget hearings begin tomorrow with a briefing by members of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency body that determines the overall economic targets, expenditure levels, and sources of funds.

The DBCC recommends to the President the following: level of annual government expenditures and the ceiling of government spending for economic and social development, national defense, and government debt service; proper allocation of expenditures for each development activity between current operating expenditures and capital outlays; and amount set to be allocated for capital outlays broken down into the various capital or infrastructure projects.

The DBCC presentation will be done by its members: Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno; National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia; Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez; and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla, Jr.

The DBCC briefing will be followed on Wednesday by the presentation of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairperson Andrea Domingo.

Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City), chairman of the committee on appropriations, enjoined his colleagues to do their share in studying, reviewing and scrutinizing the 2018 national budget proposal to ensure the expenditure items will truly benefit the people.

We have to show the Filipino people that we are meticulous in crafting this budget, careful that it takes care of keeping the cost of goods in the market low and affordable for ordinary citizens, said Nograles.

When President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second SONA just last week, he ended his speech with the formal turnover of his proposed budget for 2018. If not the first time in history, it is definitely a rarity that the President submits his proposed budget on the day of the SONA, according to Nograles.

We in the House must reciprocate by crafting and passing an Appropriations Bill with equal urgency and dispatch, without sacrificing our duty to scrutinize, dissect and examine the proposed budget as submitted to us by the President, to guide us in crafting a budget law that is responsive to the needs of the Filipino people, said Nograles.

He said so many dreams and wishes of Filipinos ride on the budget. He urged his colleagues not to disappoint their countrymen. This budget book is a symbol of their aspirations for a new start for themselves, for their families and their communities. Let us not disappoint them, he said.

While a great majority of our people believe that this administration is taking the country in the right direction, we must seize the momentum and with rightful appropriations respond by truly reforming and transforming our country to one that is prosperous and peaceful; caring to our people and the environment; graft-free, crime-free and terrorist-free; with a healthy economy that provides many jobs with adequate pay, produces many goods but keeps the cost of living low; a nation we've always dreamed of and hoped for, one we can be most proud of, said Nograles.

As House members deliberate over the financing proposals of each and every department, office and bureau of government, Nograles said they we must find in the budget the answers to the people's most pressing and urgent concerns.

We have to make sure that we pass a budget that primarily fuels and supports the national projects and programs that target the reduction of poverty in our country. We must uplift more Filipinos out of being cash-poor and food-poor. We have to pump more funds into programs that will create more jobs, not only in the urban areas but more importantly in the rural and far-flung localities, said Nograles.

Among the tasks of House members, according to Nograles, is one, ensure that the budget contains the wage increase for the government workers, as well as additional increases on the take home pay of government's military, police and other uniformed personnel, as promised by President Duterte.

Two, present to the Filipino nation a budget that effectively fights crime, restores the peace and enforcing the law. In this time of crisis, our people must see our government fully funded to defend our land against all forms of terror and defend our shores against terrorists from other lands, he said.

Three, ensure the budget is a budget that stretches its protection to all Filipinos wherever they may be. By this, I refer in particular to our Overseas Filipino Workers and families, said Nograles.

Four, ensure the budget is a budget that cares for the environment.

I challenge all of us in Congress, and fellow government workers from all branches of government, who come to the House every year in the tradition of our budget debates and deliberations--we must not fail the Filipino people. We must remember that many of our countrymen pin their dreams to a brighter year ahead. The majority sentiment among Filipinos is one of optimism and hope--that their situation and lives will be better in 2018. And government plays a major role in making that happen, said Nograles.

Up to now, he said majority of Filipinos still consider themselves poor--same as last year and the years before. But they have never lost hope. Why? Because they have seen the changes this government has made. They have felt reforms on the ground, in their communities, their barangays and their localities. Thus, more Filipinos have come to conclude that our country's quality of life as a nation is better now than last year, and an even higher percentage expects great positive changes in our country's quality of life next year 2018, said Nograles.

Meanwhile, in his Budget Message to Congress, President Duterte said the 2018 national budget of P3.767 trillion is 12.4 percent higher than this year's budget of P3.35 trillion, and constitutes 21.6 percent of the GDP. An indication that we need to put in more work to sustain the change in governance, which we have begun, said the President.

With much still to be done, we need a more activist budget to fulfill the longing of our people --- not just for reports of economic growth and progress, but for the actual, personal experience of these gains in terms of a better life for all Filipinos � in peaceful and safer communities, with enhanced opportunities for advancement, and supported by convenient, reliable services from their government. Matatag. Maginhawa. Panatag, said the President.

The President explained that the 2018 budget was crafted on the following principles: credible and disciplined fiscal policies; fiscal space focused on equitable progress and social order; strengthening transparency, participation and accountability; and enhancing partnerships with local governments to ensure sustainable development.

With your approval of the 2018 National Budget, a budget that reforms and transforms, we can and will continue our agenda of real and lasting change, said the President.

The education sector will get the biggest chunk of the budget with a funding of P691.1 billion broken down as follows: Department of Education (DepED), P613.1 billion; Commission on Higher Education (CHED), P13.5 billion; and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), P64.6 billion.

The other agencies with the highest budgetary allocations are: Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),P643.3 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), P172.3 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P164.3 billion; Department of National Defense (DND), P145 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P138 billion; Department of Transportation (DOTr), P73.8 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), P54.2 billion; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), P33.5 billion; and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), P27.9 billion.

Source: House of Representatives

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