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Monday, June 24, 2024

Angara eyes bigger appropriations for education, health in ‘24 budget

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Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said yesterday  his Committee on Finance will work to increase the budgets for education and health in the final version of the 2024 national budget.

Meanwhile, to ensure the continuity of education even amid emergencies, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian pushes for the institutionalization of alternative delivery modes, including online learning.

As chairman of the Committee on Finance that is scrutinizing the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, Angara said his experience in going over the last four General Appropriations Acts (GAA) has shown consistent support for the education and health sectors from Congress.

Looking at the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP) or the national budget as proposed by Malacañang, Angara said there would definitely be reductions from the budgets of some departments, agencies and offices because of the removal of non-recurring expenses.

“This is primarily because of non-recurring expenses. These include infrastructure projects that are already implemented in the current year so the amounts for these are removed for next year’s budget proposals,” Angara said.

“But these budgets usually go up by the time we have gone through the budget process in the House and Senate,” he added.

Under the 2023 GAA, the specialty hospitals operated by the Department of Health, namely the Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care were allocated a total of almost P7 billion.

This represents an increase of P1.1 billion from the P5.8 billion they received in 2022 and a raise of P2 billion from the P4.9 billion proposed by the Executive branch in the 2023 NEP.

The same was true for the budget of the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (MAIP), which Angara said has consistently been hiked by Congress.

In the 2024 NEP, the MAIP was provided with a proposed budget of P22.3 billion, down from the P32.6 billion under the 2023 GAA.

Angara noted that the 2023 NEP only contained P22.39 billion for the MAIP but through the interventions of the members of Congress, the program ended up with the final amount of P32.6 billion.

“The increases in the budgets of the specialty hospitals, the MAIP and the health sector in general would benefit millions of Filipinos, especially the poor, for their medical and health care requirements.

The budget for MAIP has increased annually from P9.4 billion in 2019 to P10.5 billion in 2020, P17 billion in 2021, P21.4 billion in 2022, and P32.6 billion in 2023. We expect a similar increase in the program in the final version of the 2024 budget,” Angara said.

In the case of education, Angara said increases to the NEP are also expected, particularly with the budgets of the state universities and colleges (SUCs), including the University of the Philippines system.

“For three straight years we have seen increases in the budgets of the SUCs. From P73.7 billion in 2020, this went up to P85.9 billion in 2021, P104.17 billion in 2022 and P107 billion in 2023. Similar to the health sector, we also expect increases in the budgets of the SUCs and UP once Congress is done deliberating on the 2024 NEP,” Angara said.

Angara said he sees no reason for concern with regard to the reduction in the proposed 2024 budget of the UP system in the NEP because “this will be rectified and increased by the time December comes and we’ve been through the budgetary process.”

Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 383 or the Digital Transformation of Basic Education Act to accelerate the digital transformation of the basic education sector.

Under the proposed measure, the Department of Education (DepEd) mandates all schools to enhance and strengthen their Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) capacity to implement distance learning.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will assist both the DepEd and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on the use of science, technology, and innovation to improve traditional teaching and learning processes and boost the basic education sector towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“What if we have school cancellation for two weeks? Our learners should have some form of alternative delivery of education and those should be institutionalized and our teachers should be capacitated. We have to prepare ourselves for any eventuality for teachers to continue to teach and our learners to continue to learn.  That’s a reality we have to face,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Gatchalian earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 689 seeking an inquiry on the readiness of basic education institutions for Academic Year 2023-2024.

The proposed inquiry seeks an immediate assessment of both the effectiveness and challenges of delivering both face-to-face classes and learning through alternative delivery modes.

The proposal also considers the looming threat of El Niño and the public clamor for the return of school breaks during the months of April and May.

“That’s why we have to make this a formal policy already, maybe through a law that will enable our learners to continue to learn and enable our teachers to continue to teach,” Gatchalian added



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