Senate, House start bicam conference on proposed 2017 na’tl budget
By Azer N. Parrocha
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — The Senate and the House of Representatives (HoR) convened on Tuesday the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences in their versions of the Duterte administration’s proposed PHP3.35-trillion national budget for 2017.
The bicameral conference convened after the Senate approved on Monday the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The Senate approved its version of the measure on Nov. 28, while that of the HoR was passed more than a month earlier, or on Oct. 19.
During the bicam, Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, in her opening statement, expressed hope that the budget will be able to deliver long-term solutions to the country’s long-term problems.
She stressed that what she described as a “pro-people budget” would not only be spent, but also spent well.
One of the priorities of the 2017 budget, the first under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, is a leap in infrastructure spending given, its indispensable role in reducing poverty, raising productivity, and spreading the benefits of economic growth.
Among the most important amendments introduced by the Senate is the PHP3-billion increase in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) budget so that all Filipinos will now be covered by the universal healthcare program.
Also introduced is the PHP2-billion Irrigation Fees Subsidy in the budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) so that irrigation service fees will no longer be collected from farmers’ associations.
Additional allocation is also provided for state universities and colleges (SUCs) for scholarships for all indigenous peoples and indigent students, especially those under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and for across the board capital outlay increase for all SUCs.
The proposed national budget for 2017 is an 11.6-percent increase from the PHP3.002-trillion budget for 2016. It represents 20.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, higher than the 20.1 percent GDP share this year. (PNA)