VOTING 16-0, the Senate on Wednesday evening approved on third and final reading the proposed P3.76-trillion national budget for 2018, which Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd described as a “fulfillment” of the promises of the Duterte government.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, will lead the Senate contingent in the bicameral conference committee hearing today, November 30, to fine-tune conflicting provisions in budget versions of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Legarda will be assisted by Senators Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Cynthia Villar, Juan Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“This is a ‘build, build, build’ [budget]and is [focused on]military modernization. These are really the priorities…And at the same time we are not forgetting health and education,” Pimentel said in a chance interview.
Sen. Loren Legarda said the Senate version of the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) focused on social protection programs.
“It’s a budget that addresses the needs of the people. It addresses the needs of the most vulnerable. It addresses the needs of the often-neglected segments of society,” she said.
The Senate version of 2018 GAB allots P89 billion to the conditional cash transfer program for the poor; P60 billion to the increase in the base pay of military and other uniformed personnel; P51 billion to the implementation of the free-tuition law; P10 billion to the Marawi rehabilitation; P3 billion to the construction of Department of Social Welfare and Development centers; and P6.5 billion to PhilHealth. The P3,500 chalk allowance of teachers was increased to P5,000.
Legarda said the Senate realigned P900 million originally allotted to “Oplan Double Barrel” or the war on drugs of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the housing program of the Armed Forces and PNP personnel, as well as to the purchase of body cameras for policemen.