It’s the year of the subsidy and huge bonuses for the House of Representatives.
In 2016, the House of Representatives passed the law granting at least a 20 percent discount for basic services for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs); adopted a resolution granting a P2,000 across the board increase in the Social Security System monthly pension; approved P8.3 billion for free tuition in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and increased the combat duty pay of uniformed personnel.
The PWD discount law, passed in May, provides for a 20-percent discount and Value Added Tax exemption on medical and dental services; purchase of medicines in all drugstores; public railway, skyway and bus fares; admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses, concert halls, circuses, carnivals and other places of culture, leisure and amusement; and all services in hotels and similar lodging establishments, restaurants, recreation centers, funeral services and burial expenses.
The discount and tax break for PWDs also covers vitamins as well as food for special medical purposes intended for the exclusive or partial feeding of patients with limited and impaired capacity to take, digest, absorb or metabolize ordinary food or certain nutrients.
The resolution on the SSS monthly pension increase adopted in December, on the other hand, will come in two tranches — the first P1,000 to be granted in January 2017, and the next P1,000 will be granted in 2019.
The resolution did not provide for an SSS premium hike—something that the SSS has been pushing for.
Congress refused to hike premiums because the SSS has yet to improve its collection efficiency.
As for the P8.3 billion budget for free tuition of SUC students, House Appropriations panel Chairman Karlo Alexei Nograles said the move was prompted by the warning of their Senate counterparts that allotting infrastructure budget for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through the Department of Public Works and Highways violates the Organic Act that created the ARMM. Thus, they transferred the money to SUCs.
“The worst thing that can happen is if this fund becomes underutilized or underspent. That’s why we have to be vigilant,” Nograles said.
The lawmakers also allotted P770 million for the additional cash allowance of teachers, P1.2 billion additional funds for scholarship in SUCS, P317 million for the tuition of medical students, P1 billion for the supplemental feeding of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P100 million centenarian fund, P2 billion irrigation subsidy, P1 billion for pondo sa pag-asenso at pagbabago, P3 billion for Philhealth subsidy, P1.5 billion for doctors in remote villages and construction of health facilities and an additional fund of P2.8 billion for the Defense department.
In addition, the 2017 budget earmarked P23.4 billion for the rice allowances of three million Conditional Cash Transfer beneficiaries.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez described these allocations as crucial.
“This P3.35 trillion budget is very important for the administration which aims to advance the dreams of our people towards real change and humane governance,” Alvarez said.