“More importantly, it is a call to justly spend the people’s coffers for human resource development that would bring genuine progress to the country.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – As reports of overspending on the Southeast Asian Games 2019 and other controversies continue to be exposed, several sectoral groups called on Congress to realign the proposed 2020 National Budget to fund social services.
This is to avoid what they described as “capricious, extravagant and corruption-ridden items” in next year’s expenditure program.
In a press conference on Nov. 26, the People’s Budget Campaign 2020 demanded the realignment of at least P220 billion ($4.3 billion) to fund government programs for health, education, agriculture, and to increase the salaries of teachers, nurses and government rank and file employees. The group is spearheaded by different groups: the Alliance of Concerned Teachers; Filipino Nurses United; Alliance of Health Workers; All UP Workers Union – Manila; National Union of Students of the Philippines; Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan); Ibon Foundation and the Makabayan bloc.
The group said that aside from the P6 billion ($117 million) allotted for 2019 for the SEA Games hosting, there is another P9.5 billion ($186 million) in the 2020 budget for the payment of the sports facilities in New Clark City, including the P55 million ($1 million) cauldron. These funds, according to the group, “are better off allocated for hospitals, schools and support for our farmers.”
Joselyn Martinez, national chairperson of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines said that SEA Games hosting fiasco is indicative of what she called as the government’s over-all problematic approach in allocating and spending the people’s money. She added that the “government would rather squander billions on unproductive infrastructures like the P55-million cauldron than invest on human resource development.”
“To our athletes, we feel you, we share the same feeling of being neglected as this regime continues to fail in fulfilling its pay hike promise to teachers,” Martinez said.
She pointed out that their demand is not excessive but an “assertion for an opportunity to live on decent standards and for our profession to be dignified.”
“More importantly, it is a call to justly spend the people’s coffers for human resource development that would bring genuine progress to the country,” Martinez said.
Among group’s demands from Congress are:
- P5 billion ($98 million) additional budget for the Philippine General Hospital
- P1.4 billion ($27 million) to upgrade the monthly salaries of 5,810 entry level nurses to P30,000 ($589)
- P6.55 billion ($128 million) for DOH nurse deployment program
- P10 billion ($196 million) for the Hospital Facilities Enhancement Program of the health department
- P614.69 million ($12 million) for the Maintenance, Operating and Other Expenses of 19 state colleges and universities (SUCs) which were slashed by the budget department
- P10.7 billion ($210 million) budget for the free tuition program in state colleges and universities
- P150 billion ($2.9 billion) additional DepEd budget to fund the granting of P30,000 base pay for teachers and P10,000 ($196) salary increase for teachers under other salary grades
- P21 billion ($412 billion) restoration of the original DepEd budget
- P15 billion ($294 million) additional funding for the NFA’s palay procurement program
The deliberations of the bicameral conference committee on the budget starts next week.
The group said “funding for the said items could be sourced from the P20 billion ($392 million) pork barrel funds in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as revealed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Add to that the minimum P500 ($9 million) million pork barrel allocation per congressional district tucked in the budgets of the DPWH, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Commission on Higher Education as admitted by no less than House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano.”
A part of the P972.5 billion ($19 billion) budget for infrastructure should also be realigned, the group said. They said that President Duterte’s Build Build Build program is a failure since only nine out of 75 flagship projects have been started.
The following could be fully or partially realigned according to the group:
- President’s P4.79 billion ($94 million) intelligence fund and P3.5 billion ($68 million) confidential fund
- P14.4 billion ($282 million) to fill up 26,685 positions in the Philippine National Police
- P3 billion ($58 million) for 10,000 additional policemen
- P1.9 billion ($3 million) for the anti-illegal drug campaign now under review
- P25 billion ($491 million) for the AFP Modernization Program
- P622 million ($12 million) for the newly-created national counter-insurgency task force
As well as the P1.7 trillion ($33 billion) Special Purpose Funds, which are lump sum allocations under the President’s discretion. This includes P202 billion ($3 billion) funding support for government corporations, P13 billion ($25 million) contingency fund, unprogrammed appropriations of P216.3 billion ($4.2 billion) and miscellaneous personnel benefits fund of P63.4 billion ($1.2 billion)