The House of Representatives approved on second reading the proposed P2.606 billion budget for 2015 before the clock struck midnight on Friday. The amount is P342 billion or 15 percent higher than this year’s national budget of P2.264 trillion.
Lawmakers worked until 11:50 p.m. last night to finish deliberations on the budget measure. Congress starts its three-month break today.
Under the bill, the social services sector will get the lion’s share — P967 billion, followed by the economic services sector, P700.2 billion and general public services, P423.1 billion.
The Department of Education will receive the biggest allocation — P364 billion. The Department of Public Works and Highways will get the second biggest at P300.5 billion, followed by the Department of National Defense, P144 billion, Department of Interior and Local Governments, P141.1 billion, Department of Social Welfare and Development, P109 billion, Department of Health, P102.2 billion, Department of Agriculture, P88.8 billion and Department of Transportation and Communications, P 595 billion.
Under the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) the definition of “savings” was expanded to include unspent appropriations from unfinished programs, activities or projects of government agencies in the first semester of the year. The change was introduced following the ruling of the Supreme Court declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)
unconstitutional. In its decision, the High Court said government savings can only be declared at the end of the year.
Minority Leader Neri Colmenares opposed the expanded coverage of savings, saying it will empower the President to stop projects of his political opponents by citing a “vague justifiable cause.”
“Why is that the President’s message to agencies is use it or lose it? Lose it to DAP? That is not the message that he should send. What he should have said is that if you can’t use it, don’t propose it,” Colmenares said.
He noted that the new definition of savings castrates Congress’ power of the purse.
But Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said the government’s goal “is to spend this budget, not to generate savings.”
He explained that under the proposed budget measure, savings should be used to augment existing items in the 2015 GAA and that the appropriation to be increased must be under the office that accumulated the savings.
“For the 2015 budget, much of the allocations are disaggregated, and that means the implementation (of programs) will be faster,” Ungab said.