THE P3.35-trillion 2017 national budget is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature on December 22, with increased allocation for infrastructure development, free education for state universities and colleges, universal healthcare, rice allowance for the poor, free irrigation for farmers, subsistence allowance for prisoners, and pension for war veterans and centenarians.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said “significant change” should be expected in 2017 after both chambers of Congress ratified the P3.35 trillion national budget—the first under the Duterte administration.
“On behalf of the Department of Budget and Management, I would like to commend the Senate for making the Filipino people the priority of this budget, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Loren Legarda especially, for her wisdom and her unparalleled dedication in ensuring that the People’s budget for 2017 truly responds to the needs of those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder,” said Diokno.
In particular, infrastructure gets the biggest chunk of the pie, with more than P850 billion to building roads, bridges, transport infrastructure, and other public works.
This will raise infrastructure spending to at least five percent of Gross Domestic Product to unlock the country’s growth potential.
Also reflected in the budget is the government’s strong support for human capital development, with an increased allotment of P8 billion for the Higher Education Support Fund that will grant scholarships to students enrolled in state universities and colleges.
The significant boost in the budget allocation for the Department of Education from P433 billion in 2016 to P544 billion for 2017 will be spent on capital outlays, along with an increased teachers’ cash or chalk allowance from P1,500 to P2,500 starting next year.
The Congress also approved the funding for projects of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority such as Training for Work Scholarship Program/Livelihood and Training Provision for Drug Dependents, which offers drug users and dealers a means to change and uplift their lives through education and skills training.
Meanwhile, an additional P1.5 billion is allocated to the Department of Health’s program Doctors to the Barrios, while an upsurge of P3 billion is appropriated to health insurance, providing Filipinos access to a universal health care program.
This brings the total funding for the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. at almost P150 billion for 2017.
Indigent patients, under the No Balance Billing policy, will receive completely free service from government hospitals while DOH Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers will be built in provinces that lack such facility through a P2.646 billion allocation.
An amount of P128.3 billion will fund the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s social protection services, one of which is the Conditional Cash Transfer with P78.2 billion.
Also provided is a monthly financial assistance, specifically, a rice allowance in the form of cash grants distributed to 4.4 million impoverished households.
The Department of National Defense will also receive further subsidy for the repair of Veterans Memorial Medical Center, an expanded veterans’ hospitalization benefits, and the construction of new barracks.
Additional funds are provided to the Department of Interior and Local Government in support of firefighters and the Philippine National Police which leads the country’s fight against illegal drugs.
The augmented allowance for prisoners and the construction of jail facilities are also detailed in the 2017 budget.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources are provided with funds for the restoration of mangroves and implementation of the National Greening Program, which serves a double purpose of improving the environment and providing sustenance and livelihood to communities through the planting of fruit-bearing trees and other plants useful in different industries.
An additional P2 billion was given to the National Irrigation Administration to fulfill the President’s promise of relieving farmers from paying costly irrigation fees.
Micro entrepreneurs will receive support from the government through the P1 billion allotment under the Small Business Corporation, allowing them to loan with minimal interest.