Senator Franklin Drilon has lauded President Benigno S. Aquino III’s move to sign the 2011 government spending plan into law Monday, a development which paves the way for an operational budget by January 1, 2011.
“This is the first time in over a decade that the General Appropriations Act would be effective on the first day of the year,” said Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, noting that the last time the government had an operational budget by January 1 was in 1999.
“We hope to continue this cooperation between the President and Congress for the sake of our people,” the senator added.
Both houses of Congress swiftly moved to avert a reenacted budget next year, with the Senate ratifying the expenditure plan last December 13—the earliest that the chamber passed the budget measure since the 8th Congress—and the House of Representatives a day after the Senate approval.
“We thank our colleagues for the support that they have extended for the first Aquino budget. This is touted to be a reform budget and we will monitor closely its implementation, particularly the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program,” Drilon added.
In announcing the Senate’s approval of the budget earlier this month, Drilon said that the P1.645 trillion outlay contains key investments in social services to tackle poverty and basic education to bring more kids to school—both programs stiffen the resolve of the Aquino administration “to move the country forward in the next 12 months.”
The CCT program—a direct cash grant of the Aquino administration with a P21.1-billion allocation in the budget next year—seeks to cover 2.3 million household beneficiaries or half of the estimated 4.6 million poor families living below the poverty line. The CCT program targets each identified family with a stipulated amount of cash, subject to conditions such as sustaining children’s education, regular health check-ups and vaccines for 0-5 years old, among others.
The program as initiated by the previous administration, currently covers 1 million beneficiaries or about 25% of total poor families and the Aquino administration wanted the coverage to be increased further to 50% or an additional 2.3 million families by next year.
“We fully support the President’s programs as indicated in the national budget to make an impact on lives of the Filipinos,” Drilon said.
“Let us give this administration a chance to prove its worth and if after one year they have not proven their worth, we will be less sympathetic,” Drilon said of the CCT program. “But in the mean time, this administration has been less than six months old. Let’s give it a chance to succeed.”
Drilon likewise said that it was the first time in over a decade that debt service—a source of congressional insertions—was not included in the budget, as it is by law automatically appropriated.
A P12.5-billion allocation for public-private partnership is also included in the budget, a landmark policy of the Aquino administration to create new funding avenues for projects particularly on infrastructure.