THE Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017, bringing Congress closer to its target to have it signed by President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year.
With 20 affirmative votes and no negative vote, the chamber passed its version of next year’s budget after 10 days of plenary deliberation.
The 2017 budget is 11.6 percent higher than the P3.002 trillion national budget this year, of which 40 percent or about P1.345 trillion was earmarked for social services such as education, culture, health, social security, housing, land distribution, among others.
The Senate formed a nine-man bicameral conference committee panel that will work with the House of Representatives’ contingent in resolving disagreeing provisions.
Sen. Loren Legarda will lead the Senate contingent which is composed of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Tito Sotto 3rd, Senate President pro-tempore Franklin Drilon, Senate minority leader Ralph Recto and Senators Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Panfilo Lacson, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday threatened to expose the humongous lump sums contained in the proposed 2017 budget if the amendments he introduced on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways will not be included.
“I found some documents showing that such funds are intended for something else but not for its intended purpose,” the senator noted.
Among those mentioned by Lacson was the P2.5 billion DPWH appropriation which the agency will use for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“This is clearly in violation of the ARRM Organic Act,” he said.
The amount, he said, is on top of the P8.17 billion that the House of Representatives took out from the ARMM budget and transferred to DPWH.
Lacson removed the P2.5 billion from the DPWH and transferred it to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the purchase of two eight-seater helicopters to enhance the anti-crime and anti-drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Lacson also removed P705 million from DPWH intended for the construction of school buildings. He said the Department of Education (DepEd) has a school building program for next year.