APPROVES 2015 BUDGET
The proposed P2.606 trillion national spending package was approved by the bicameral conference committee after revisions and finetunings were made on the budget version of the House of Representatives.
Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the approved budget has kept the original amount as proposed by President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Escudero, however, said lawmakers made some realignments amounting to P72.542 billion, a big chunk of which came from the Unprogrammed Fund for MRT 3 buyout.
In the House version, the MRT 3 acquisition amounted to P53.9 billion. From this original amount, the bicameral panel only restored P7.428 billion for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the transit system. Also, P6.520 billion was retained for the payment of taxes of MRT 3 in connection with its BOT contract. The panel also retained P4.4 billion for the remaining equity buy out of the MRT 3.
The biggest realigned item totalling P20 billion went to the rehabilitation fund to cover Yolanda-struck areas and other areas hit by past disasters.
Other realignments to the budget went to Trade Remedies Fund amounting to P4.384 billion; P10.694.754 for the incremental revenue from excise for the Department of Health; and P472.485 million for the terminal leave pay of Philippine Postal Office employees.
Escudero also said the 2015 budget has adopted the Senate version’s definition of savings in full compliance with the Supreme Court decision on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The General Appropriations Bill for 2015 has quoted en toto the entire 2013 PDAF article by the High Tribunal defining savings as “the portions or balances of any released appropriations in the GAA which have not been obligated.”
It also states that savings may result from the following: non-commencement of the program/activity/project (P/A/P) or the inability of the agency to obligate its released allotment and implement it within the period when the appropriation is valid. In the same manner, Escudero said the bicameral panel-approved 2015 budget demands more fiscal responsibility from agencies, by adding the provision that “programmed appropriations which have not been released or allotments not obligated due to the fault of the agency concerned shall not be considered savings and shall revert to the General Fund.”
The 2015 budget is distributed as follows: Social Services, Economic Services, General Public Services, Debt Burden and Defense. /MP