PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday signed the P4.1 trillion 2020 budget or the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) into law, vowing that every peso in this year’s appropriation will be spent exclusively for the benefit of Filipinos.
The President signed Republic Act 11465 in a ceremony in Malacañang that was witnessed by members of the Senate led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and the House of Representatives headed by Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano.
“The passage of the 2020 General Appropriations Act is proof that with the invaluable help of both houses of Congress, this government can effectively work together towards the enactment of key legislative measures that will support our development agenda in the next two and a half years,” Duterte said.
The President urged everyone, especially members of Congress and those in government, to remain driven and focused on reaching the collective goal of providing a more comfortable life to the Filipino people.
“Together, let us ensure that every peso in the budget will never be used to support the selfish greed of the few, but spent exclusively for the benefit and service of Filipino taxpayers,” he said.
Carrying the theme “Continuing the journey to a more peaceful and progressive Philippines”, the 2020 national budget will build upon the gains made over the first three and a half years of the Duterte administration by continuing the thrust for genuine change, inclusive growth, and equitable development to build a better Philippines.
This year’s budget is the country’s largest to date, larger by 12 percent than the 2019 budget.
As in previous years, the biggest chunk of the budget – which represents 19.5 percent of the projected gross domestic product for 2020 – went to social services and infrastructure development.
About P1.495 trillion of the budget or 36.5 percent will fund programs on education, healthcare, housing and social welfare, while P1.2 trillion or 29.3 percent will be used to boost the country’s economy through programs on infrastructure, tourism, trade, job generation, and agriculture.
About P746.7 billion or 18 percent of the budget goes to general services while 11.2 percent or P461 billion will be used for debt servicing as the government strives to bring down the debt to just 39 percent of the GDP by 2022.
The Department of Budget and Management, in a press release, said “significant allocations” or P197.4 billion (4.8 percent) of the 2020 budget had also been given to defense and security agencies as part of efforts to enhance peace and order in the country.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Senate finance committee chair, identified the top 10 government agencies which got the biggest chunk of the P4.1 trillion national budget for this year.
Topping the list was the education sector (Department of Education, State Universities and Colleges, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) with P654.6 billion, the Department of Public Works and Highways with P580.8 billion, Department of the Interior and Local Government with P239.8 billion, Department of National Defense with P191.7 billion, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development at P163.8 billion.
Department of Health with P101 billion, Department of Transportation with P99.3 billion, Department of Agriculture with P62.2 billion, the Judiciary with P40.1 billion, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with P25.5 billion.
“Our experience with the 2019 General Appropriations Act was regrettable. The delays faced in the approval of the measure proved to be very costly on the people, who were expecting the timely delivery of key services, and on the economy, which grew at a slower pace,” Angara said.
“With this in mind, all members of Congress worked together to prevent a similar situation from happening with the 2020 budget. As it has been in previous years, there were differences on some issues, but we were able to resolve these with haste, all for the greater good of the country,” Angara added.
Angara said that under the 2020 GAA, the Department of Public Works and Highways received a net increase of P51.139 billion.
“The idea is to complete as many projects as possible by the time President Duterte ends his term in 2022. For the more complex projects, the plan is to get the ball rolling already so that the next administration will just continue these and complete them during their term,” Angara said.
Education and social services, two key areas that are important to the President, were also given priority in the 2020 GAA.
The conditional cash transfer or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program will continue to be the government’s primary program to reduce poverty in the country.
Benefits due to senior citizens, including the social pension of P6,000 annually, will still be funded in the 2020 budget.
In the delivery of health care, the 2020 GAA ensures that health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists will continue to be deployed to different communities around the country who are in need of their services.
“The Department of Health will be able to continue its hiring of doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, and other health professionals under its Deployment of Human Resources for Health program. A significant number of our kababayans are situated in far flung areas and cannot afford to travel when they need medical attention and that is why this program should be sustained and supported,” Angara said. – With Raymond Africa