THE Senate will further scrutinize the proposed P3 trillion budget for 2016 to find items that can be realigned to augment the allocation for the Department of National Defense (DND).
The move came after minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile learned during plenary deliberations that the P116.2 billion allotted for next year will not be enough to enhance operations that will address threats to the country and other security concerns.
When Enrile asked if the budget being proposed by the Defense department will be sufficient to ensure the security of the Filipino people, Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said no.
Legarda said the budget proposal is not enough considering “the multifarious threats not only domestically but internationally and in the region.”
The DND asked for an allocation of P202 billion but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) whittled it down to P115 billion.
“Is the chair of the finance committee defending this budget agreeable to augmenting the budget of this department in order to secure the safety of the Filipino people?” Enrile asked Legarda.
The finance committee head responded in the affirmative and informed Enrile that she augmented the DND budget by P250 million based on the amendments submitted to her committee.
The additional amount will be for the quick response fund (QRF) of the Office the Defense Secretary which was not granted by Congress in 2015.
In an interview after the morning session, Enrile said that if he will have his way, he will add P10 billion to P20 billion to the current budget of the DND to improve its capability.
Even if security officials have said that there is no specific threat to Filipinos at present, Enrile said the country should always be prepared for any eventuality that may arise from incidents happening in other parts of the world.
“There is no perceptible threat now but it is possible that as a part of the planet, we will be involved in the problems that are now occurring in Europe and in other parts of the world. You know these things, you cannot plan just tomorrow, you have to plan it within a certain frame of time,” he pointed out.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said his department has yet to determine how much more budget to ask.
“It is a very good indication because it means that they will push for the increase of our budget,” he added.
Legarda said that with a bigger budget, the Defense department will be able to enhance its capability and at the same time pay its arrears to thousands of World War II veterans.
The senator said P4 billion of the DND budget is intended for the payment of debts to WWII veterans and their spouses.
Under Republic Act (RA) 7696 enacted in 1994, a veteran, with or without a service-connected or non-service connected disability, upon reaching the age of 70, is deemed totally disabled and shall be entitled to a monthly pension of P1,700.