Pro-poor? Drilon questions 'minimal' increase in social services budget

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has questioned the "minimal" increase in the proposed budget of agencies that deliver social services for 2018, compared to those in the infrastructure sector.

During the plenary budget hearing of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Drilon pointed out that the proposed 2018 budget was supposed to be "designed to reduce poverty in the country” but agencies in the social services sector had the lowest increases for 2018.

The infrastructure sector, he said, would be "enjoying a tremendous increase" in budget next year.

“If we are to believe the policy thrust of this administration, as enunciated by the good sponsor, to address...poverty alleviation, there appears to be a disconnect between the increases in the budget of the social services sector and the infrastructure sector,” Drilon said on Wednesday, October 11. 

According to Drilon, the Department of Public Works and Highways will enjoy a 40.3% fiscal boost because of the administration’s "Build, Build, Build" policy but  agencies involved in social services will only receive an increase of less than 10%, as follows: 

He cited the 70% budget cut for housing agencies  from P15.3 billion this year to P4.7 billion in 2018. The senator earlier proposed to restore the housing budget and get the money from the huge intelligence funds of the Office of the President.

Senate finance committee chair Senator Loren Legarda, who sponsored the DSWD budget, explained that social services "will continue to receive the biggest bulk" of the 2018 budget.

“In nominal terms, the social services [sector] will continue to receive the biggest bulk [of the national budget] at P1.42 trillion with a 5.44% increase,” she said.

Legarda added that the increased budget for infrastructure would create more jobs and livelihood opportunities.

She welcomed any proposed amendments that would channel more funds for social services.

"I would be happy to receive interventions, amendments to skew our budget to the social services sector," she said.

Legarda added that she would support the expanded coverage of the  Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), pending the DSWD review validate the 4Ps records.  The proposed DSWD budget for 2018 does not provide additional funds for more 4Ps beneficiaries.

4Ps is the primary anti-poverty scheme of the government that currently covers 4.4 million households. The DSWD earlier imposed a moratorium on new beneficiaries pending a review of the program implementation, which is expected to be completed within the year.  (FACT CHECK: How 4Ps funds are paid out to beneficiaries)

“The NEP (National Expenditure Program) did not increase the number of (4Ps) beneficiaries….I would try to find the funds to introduce it as an amendment to increase the share of the sector,” said Legarda.

Legarda said that the anti-poverty program has improved the welfare of poor households, and has a positive effect on poverty alleviation at the national level. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.