House approves P3.35 trillion 2017 budget

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved the proposed P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017 on Wednesday, October 19, the last day of sessions before the Lower House takes a break. 

Voting 243-5-1 on 3rd and final reading, congressmen gave the nod to House Bill 3408 or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. 

The proposed 2017 budget, which was designed to complement President Rodrigo Duterte’s 10-point socio-economic agenda, is 11.6% higher than the 2016 budget. It represents 21% of the projected gross domestic product next year. 

Agriculture, education as well as peace and order are among the budget priorities of the Duterte administration. The Office of the President, and the education and public works departments are the top budget gainers. (READ: What's in the proposed 2017 national budget?)

Lawmakers barely touched the version of the proposed 2017 budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in August.

But House committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles said they have decided to restore the budget cuts made against state colleges and universities (SUCs) and government hospitals nationwide. 

"We are one in the belief that these SUCs and our government hospitals must be given utmost priority at all times. Quality education and quality health care are key public services that have a direct impact on our nation's future," Nograles said 

Under the original version submitted by the DBM, the proposed 2017 maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOEs) of 65 government hospitals and 34 SUCs were significantly lower compared to their MOOEs this year. 

The 17th Congress goes on a two-week break starting October 22. The Senate will start deliberating on the budget bill on November 7. 

No more budget cuts 

Restoring the budget for government hospitals and SUCs were then strongly lobbied by Makabayan bloc lawmakers ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago together with Taguig City Representative Pia Cayetano during the budget hearings and plenary deliberations in the past two months.

According to Nograles, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas moved to restore the budget cuts, with the support of Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

A total of P1.538 billion that was previously slashed from the MOOE of government hospitals has been restored back to the Department of Health’s budget. 

As for SUCs, the appropriations panel increased the budget of the University of the Philippines-Manila by P85 million for the modernization of the College of Dentistry’s laboratories, the repair and rehabilitation of the the College of Nursing building, and the purchase of generators. 

The MOOEs of the following SUCs were also restored:

Nograles said that all other SUCs not included in the list maintained their MOOE budget based on their allocation in 2016. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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