MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the P2.265-trillion national budget for 2014 on Friday, December 20, with education, infrastructure, and local governments as the top 3 areas of focus.
The 2014 budget – over P2 billion or about 13% higher than the P2.006 trillion earmarked for the current year – is unprecedented in several ways.
"We will not allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated. We are continuously improving on the strategy we laid out when we began treading the straight path. Through proper spending—and through cooperation with partner institutions—we will equip the government with the wherewithal to respond to any situation confronting our country," Aquino said.
"This is still the basis of our goal to ensure that each peso in our national coffers redounds to equivalent benefits for our bosses—the Filipino people."
Aquino said the priority of the budget is "inclusive development."
It includes a P100-billion lump sum rehabilitation fund for calamity-hit areas. This is separate from the P16.9-billion quick response fund distributed across different line agencies.
This is also the country's first Performance-Informed Budget, which outlines specific performance targets agencies must achieve using their budgets. Agencies will also be mandated to submit quarterly reports to be posted on the budget department's website.
"This is our way of ensuring the accountability of agencies and departments to the Filipino people. I encourage the public to examine the performance targets of agencies and to be one with us in monitoring the performance of their duties, the moment the approved GAA is published in the website of the Department of Budget and Management," Aquino said.
Additionally, the 2014 budget is the first time the appropriations law will require lump sum funds to be subjected to further line-item budgeting.
The year 2014 will also be the first time in decades the budget will not include the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was earlier struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Malacañang had earlier proposed a P2.268-trillion budget, but the Senate deleted the P3.2-billion PDAF of 15 senators and Vice President Jejomar Binay's.
Congress has managed to pass the budget on time every year under the Aquino administration.
Under the law, failure to pass the appropriations bill before the end of the fiscal year would mean a reenacted budget until Congress approves the bill.
In the previous Arroyo administration, the government operated on a reenacted budget for at least 4 times.
Aquino praised Congress for the speedy passing of the budget, saying it will allow the government to "be able to undertake priority projects immediately" while "closing loopholes that can lead to the abuse of power and to the abuse of our national coffers."
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier called the budget "comprehensive and forward-looking," with a focus on the country's "most urgent development requirement [and] also our long-term growth objectives."
Abad explained the biggest allocations to the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as "strategic investments in the development of our human capital and our economic services…designed not only to strike at poverty’s root, but also to ensure the continued acceleration of our growth momentum."
He said the budget has huge investments in social protection and social services, the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, basic education, public health, jobs and livelihood and the expansion of the economy.
Focused on rehabilitation
The 2014 budget is also especially focused on rehabilitating disaster-hit areas.
Of the P100 billion lump sum rehabilitation fund, P80 billion will be allocated for the government's rehabilitation plans. The remaining P20 billion will be divided among various local government units and agencies.
On top of the P100 billion, another P13 billion in calamity fund and P4.8 billion in quick response fund has also been allocated. This amount is in addition to the already approved P14.6 supplemental budget, as well as the remaining P12 billion in 2013 calamity funds, the validity of which was extended by another fiscal year.
Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was also present at the signing, said the the budget’s approval “should translate to the timely activation of urgently needed services, particularly the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas.”
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr also praised Aquino for the speed at which he signed the budget.
“We laud President Aquino for signing the 2014 national budget into law without delay and without doubt in our earnest bid to help our calamity-stricken countrymen by including a budget provision for a P100-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for areas that have been affected by recent natural and man-made calamities,” Belmonte said.
Below is the general breakdown of the 2014 budget:
Social Services - P841.8 billion (37.2% of the total national budget); including P62.6 billion for the CCT program, P44.6 billion for construction and repair of public school classrooms, and P35.3 billion for the National Health Insurance Program
Economic Services - P593.1 billion (26.2%); including a P94.3-billion allocation for paving national roads, P10.7 billion for technical support services for the country's farmers, and P5.5 billion for tourism promotion
Debt Burden - P377.6 billion (16.7%)
General Public Services - P362.6 billion (16%)
Defense services - P89.5 billion
The P13 billion set aside for the Calamity Fund, which has been changed to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, is up by 73% from 2013's P7.5 billion. – Rappler.com