Sunday, December 26, 2010

Aquino signs P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011

UPDATED 1:00 p.m. - President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III signed on Monday the P1.645-trillion budget for 2011, the first time in 11 years that the national budget was signed on time. 

The amount includes a P21-billion allocation for the conditional cash transfer program and P1.2 billion inconfidential and intelligence expenses that the Commission on Audit does not have to audit. 

In his speech in Malacañang, Aquino said, "Congress has ratified the General Appropriations Act for 2011. By so doing, it has made possible my signing the national budget today. This will be the first time in eleven years that the budget will be signed into law in the same year that it was submitted."

"The House of Representatives and the Senate, by means of their swift yet thorough deliberations on the budget, have proven that Congress is indeed serious about the primary duty of the legislature," Aquino said.

"The budget is the most important act of any Congress. Its early passage means that the much-needed programs for poverty alleviation and development can be implemented earlier," he added.

Aquino said the early signing of the budget "will enable us to address the urgent needs of our people in a timely manner. Such needs include building more rural health units and providing immunization for children. This also allows us to construct new classrooms and hire new teachers, as promised to the Filipino people."

Aquino took note of the zero-based budgeting approach his government used where allocations would have to be justified before they can be approved. 

In a statement, Budget Secretary Butch Abad said the zero-based budgeting approach allowed the government to "reduce or terminate funding for projects or programs which are ineffective, inefficient, or fraught with leakages, and to expand funding for those which are well-performing and are critical for development." 

Aquino signed the budget in the presence of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and other Congress leaders and Cabinet members.

According to Abad, the social services sector got the lion's share of the budget at 34.1 percent. The sector received a 16.8 hike from its 2010 budget, the highest increase among all the sectors.

The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the final version of the proposed budget on December 13 and 14, respectively. 

The budget includes Malacañang’s proposed P21-billion allocation for the conditional cash transfer program, which lawmakers earlier questioned but eventually approved.

In a statement issued on December 23, the Palace said the early signing of the 2011 budget will enable the government to push through with its planned infrastructure and anti-poverty projects in the first quarter of next year.

Senate finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon earlier said the 2011 budget includes an increase of:

  • P110 million for the maintenance and operating expenses of 80 state universities and colleges (SUC);

  • P8 million in the budget of the Office of the Vice President;

  • P200 million in subsidies for local government units;

  • P590 million in the budget of the House of Representatives; and

  • P345 million in the budget of the Senate

    In an interview with reporters after the signing of the budget, Abad said Aquino exercised his veto power over some general and special provisions in the budget law.

    Most of these provisions involve limits on the way the executive branch can implement the budget, Abad explained.

    "There was no appropriation item that was vetoed by the president. The veto, which numbered 13, involved general and special provisions of the budget and then 26 items in the budget were subject to what is called conditional implementation which is really a clarification on how they should be implemented," Abad said.

    "We also have general observations on certain portions of the budget which is really expressing the executive's view on some provisions which may later on be subject to clarification or controversy. Hopefully not," he added.

    Abad said one vetoed item was a provision limiting the ability of the executive department to enter into debt agreements.

    The vetoed provision limits debt to 55 percent of the gross domestic product, which Abad said is "not possible" because the present national debt obligation is about 57 percent of the GDP.

    "We want to maintain the flexibility of the government in its liability management program to take advantage of the positive environment where you have a strong peso, weak dollar, low interest rates, so that we can shift the profile of our liabilities to more peso-denominated debt which insulates it from the volatility of the international foreign exchange market," said Abad.

    The budget chief said the other items that were vetoed had to do with putting control over portions of the budget that should be within the domain of the executive branch.

    "We wanted to make sure that later on we would not have problems with the implementation of those provisions because of possible conflicting jurisdictions between the executive and the legislature. So we felt that it was necessary to veto that," he said.– with Jam Sisante, VVP/HS, GMANews.TV
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