DBM wants to double DOTr funding for 2020

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 20) — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) wants to double funding for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) under the proposed ₱4.1-trillion 2020 national budget as part of the Duterte administration’s continued push for infrastructure development.

The DBM proposed a ₱147-billion budget for the DOTr, which is more than double than the ₱67.67-billion approved for the department under this year’s fiscal plan.

Rail transportation will get the largest chunk of the proposed DOTr budget, with the DBM allocating ₱106.7 billion for it. The DBM, meanwhile, wants ₱508 million for sea transport and ₱346 million for air transport.

This is part of the nearly ₱1-trillion budget which the DBM wants allocated for the administration’s ambitious Build, Build, Build program. According to President Rodrigo Duterte's budget message, big projects next year are the North-South Commuter Railway system (₱84.7 billion), the government share in the Japan-funded Metro Manila Subway (₱9.8 billion), and the rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (₱5.1 billion).

The DBM is also eyeing a ₱534.3-billion budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), slightly higher than the approved ₱454.02-billion budget for the department this year.

Of the DPWH’s proposed budget, ₱119.1 billion is sought to be allocated for network development, mostly to build new bypass and diversion roads and road-widening. Around ₱51.8 billion has been earmarked for maintenance and ₱32.9 billion for bridges.

The DPWH received a massive cut in the final 2019 budget enacted into law by President Rodrigo Duterte as he rejected ₱95.3-billion in allocations because of suspected “unconstitutional” insertions from Congress.

Aside from the DOTr, the Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Senate are among the biggest gainers in the 2020 budget.

The PCOO’s capital outlay is up tenfold from ₱10.79 million in 2019 to ₱105.55 million.

The DFA will triple its capital outlay from ₱466.96 million to ₱1.548 billion.

The Senate, meanwhile, will get ₱2.877 billion for buildings and other structures, double the funding from last year for the same purpose.

A new ₱8.5-billion building for the Senate in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig is under construction and is targeted to be completed by 2022.

The Tourism and Industry departments, and the National Economic and Development Authority also saw their capital outlays double in the proposed budget.

Social services

The proposed 2019 budget will largely fund social services, including the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). Nearly 40 percent of the budget will go to social services.

The UHC is allocated ₱166.5 billion, which will be split between the Philippine Health Insurance Program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (₱67.4 billion) and the Department of Health (DOH) (₱92.2 billion).

The 4Ps, meanwhile, is allocated ₱108.8 billion for next year, while the dole-outs for qualified households will increase from ₱500 to ₱750 every month.

The Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, established by the rice tariffication law to cushion local farmers from the effect of rice importation, is allocated ₱10 billion for 2020.

Education still tops the government’s proposed fiscal program, as mandated by the Constitution.

New gov’t bodies

The Bangsamoro Autonomus Region in Muslim Mindanao finally gets its block grant provided under the Bangsamoro Organic Law. The block grant is equal to five percent of the net tax and customs collections in the last three years.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority member Zafrullah Dipatuan had earlier complained about how they are lacking funds for a proper transition. He also said that they were still negotiating with the DBM for a ₱1.5-billion transition fund.

Meanwhile, the new Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development is allocated ₱641.6 million to support its initial operations.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict also got ₱622.3 million for its operations.

The DBM submitted the proposed 2020 budget to Congress on Tuesday.

No more pork?

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that “pork barrel” or discretionary funds for lawmakers would be “a thing of the past” under the proposed 2020 budget as they will ensure equitable distribution of funds among congressional districts.

Acting Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado also assured that there will be no lump sum funds in the spending bill.

Allegations of the existence of pork and anomalous insertions in the budget hounded deliberations on the spending bill last year, which hampered its passage.

This eventually forced the government to operate on a reenacted budget for four months, causing a slowdown in the country’s economy.

The new House leaders, however, vow not to repeat this and are looking to pass the budget by October, a month earlier than last year.

“We are hoping that this budget process … will be a different experience both for the executive and the legislative,” Cayetano said.

He said they will be working overtime to pass the budget on time, with House sessions moved two hours later to 5 p.m. to give the Appropriations committee more time to deliberate on the budget.

He added that they will also hold budget hearings on Thursdays and Fridays, when lawmakers usually do not have hearings.

Malacañang is hoping the 2020 budget is passed on time.

"We can always hope that it will pass on time because any delay will, again, affect our economy," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

CNN Philippines’ Melissa Luz Lopez and Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.