Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

“The budget is the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies.” – Joseph A. Schumpeter

This year’s budget deliberations are significant for the following reasons: 1) The budget submitted to Congress a day after the State of the Nation Address is the first to be completely drafted by the government of President Noynoy Aquino; 2) The president’s budget message contained for the first time the specific goals of the slogan ‘Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap;’ 3) The budget reflects Pnoy’s Philippine Development Plan 2011-16; 4) All the budget documents are already published in the government website; 5) Civil Society Organizations helped in drafting the budget of six major departments and three government corporations; and 6) The budget hearing on August 2 was the earliest in about a decade.

The first week of the budget deliberations was memorable for the following events: 1) It coincided with the resolution of the debt ceiling issue in the United States; 2) The minority has decided to boycott the budget committee hearings because of the non-release of their pork allocations; 3) The budget bill has yet to be sponsored in the plenary; 4) Rep. Antonio Diaz of Zambales who first became a congressman in 1969 passed away. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri resigned from the Senate; 5) Nora Aunor is back in the Philippines.

Briefing of the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Finance

I asked the DOF two questions: What fees and other charges will be raised by various national government agencies since DOF is targeting more than P6 billion in additional revenues through the adjustment of user fees? What agencies are targeted for privatization which would generate P2 billion pesos in revenues for the government?

Meanwhile, I raised these issues with the DBM: If allocations for Local Government Units will be reduced this year by 2 percentage points, what local services will be affected? What programs will be scrapped?

Then I asked about the CSO participation in the budget formulation. Who are the CSO leaders consulted by the DBM? What criteria were used in selecting these CSOs? How many groups participated in the new process and how is their participation reflected in the budget? What funding programs were slashed or enlarged because they were proposed by the CSOs? Secretary Butch Abad revealed that 78 CSOs were consulted in the drafting of the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Finally, I inquired about the budget of state universities and colleges. I mentioned the discrepancy in the funding of SUCs specified in the National Expenditure Program (P21.8 billion) and the DBM budget presentation (P25.8 billion). Sec. Abad said the gap is due to the ‘innovation’ in the budget process: the allocations for ‘unfilled positions’ in government agencies are now centralized to the DBM.

Responding to my query about the zero capital outlay of SUCs, Sec. Abad cited the additional P500 million allocation of the Commission on Higher Education which has been earmarked for the operating expenses of SUCs. I manifested that the additional funds are grossly insufficient to fill up the needs of more than 100 SUCs in the country.

During the hearing, I learned that P8 billion has been allocated for the automated elections. MRT-LRT will soon adopt a unified ticketing system but it will cost us P371 million.

Briefing of the Department of Science and Technology

I asked about the PC Tablet program of the DOST which was presented last year as a solution to textbook shortages. It will be developed this year, according to Secretary Mario Montejo. I asked if the DOST plans to address the equipment needs of PAGASA in the next five years. Sec. Montejo is confident of achieving the target.

Apparently, Information and Communication Technology is now under DOST. And DOST has grand plans like ‘Internet for All’ and internet connectivity for unserved and underserved islands. I cited some of their programs like e-government, community e-centers, and mobile IT classrooms. But I quickly pointed out the impossibility of implementing these programs because of the inadequate funds allocated by the Pnoy administration. P1.2 billion has been reserved for ICT but this is misleading because P1.1 billion of this amount is only for one agency whose main mandate is to send telegrams. Meanwhile, the National Computer Center will receive only P100 million and it has no capital outlay. Good luck!

Briefing of CHED and SUCs

CHED presented some interesting numbers: 19 schools have voluntarily phased out their nursing program, 358 higher education programs have been voluntarily phased out while 31 programs were closed down by CHED, and 365 programs with noted deficiencies are closely being monitored.

The Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges presented some glaring numbers as well: Funding of 46 SUCs was slashed. The Personal Services allocation of 58 SUCs was cut by P403 million.

I began my interpellation by clarifying the total number of higher education institutions in the country. CHED said that we have 1,200 private schools and 643 public schools (including the campuses of SUCs and local universities and colleges). Then I asked the utilization of the Higher Education Development Fund (P700 million plus) and linked it to the additional P500 million allocation promised by DBM. CHED said it would still finalize the details on how to distribute the new funds but noted that the beneficiaries must offer programs that conform to the priorities of the government like Business Process Outsourcing, Agri-fishery, tourism, and other priority industries.

I asked about the difference in the higher education policies of Pnoy and his predecessor. I forgot the answer of Secretary Patricia Licuanan but I think it had something to do about transparency and fighting corruption. She kept on repeating the word ‘chaotic’ in describing the country’s system of education. I said that in terms of financing the SUCs, there’s no fundamental difference between the policies of Pnoy and Gloria Arroyo.

Finally, I said that I will consider amending the law to strengthen the autonomy of SUCs and shield them from unnecessary partisan political intervention. CHED said it will soon have a dialogue with LGU leaders about LUCs and I suggested that they should raise the issue of too much LGU intervention in the academic affairs of LUCs.

Budget issues

In the next few weeks, I plan to review these budget issues: zero based budgeting as a reform measure, hidden lump sum fund allocations, questionable unprogrammed funds, details of some of the accounts in the special purpose funds, bloated funding of the Conditional Cash Transfer program, and Public-Private Partnership in the social services sector.

2 Responses to “First week of 2012 budget deliberations”

  1. Hi Mong, tanung ko lang if the DOST is aware of the Indian government’s non-profit tablet pc called the Sakshat. Apparently it costs $40(P1860)for the tablet alone. Also was wondering how the government would improve the information highway in far flung provinces.

    FReeSince09

  2. […] First week of budget deliberations SUC budget 2011 […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Unhealthy Health Budget

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