MANILA, JULY 25, 2006
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - Even with her proposed P1.053-trillion 2006 budget still awaiting congressional approval, President Arroyo is about to seek a national outlay of nearly P1.2 trillion for next year.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, House appropriations committee chairman, told reporters yesterday that finance and budget officials have informed him that the President would seek a 2007 budget amounting to P1.194 trillion.

In the meantime, the President asked Congress yesterday to pass a supplemental budget to modernize the country’s election system and for local governments to get their much needed funding for development projects.

"Regardless of the fate of the national budget, we must automate our election process. Local governments must get their rightful share of revenues," Mrs. Arroyo said in her State of the Nation Address delivered yesterday before a joint session of Congress.

Salceda, one of the President’s economic advisers, said Mrs. Arroyo would submit the 2007 budget proposal before Aug. 24, when the 30-day period from the opening of the regular session of Congress for her to present the annual outlay ends.

"We still have time to approve the 2006 spending program, and I hope we can do that within that one-month period," he added.

The Senate and the House failed to approve Mrs. Arroyo’s proposed budget for this year during the last session that ended last month because they could not reconcile their differences on the measure.

Senators insisted on cutting the outlay by P64 billion to bring down this year’s projected P125 billion financing deficit, while congressmen shared the President’s sentiment that her spending level should be kept intact. She had even vowed to veto any reduction in her spending proposal.

Due to the lawmakers’ failure to pass this year’s budget, the government has been operating since January on the basis of the reenacted P907-billion 2005 outlay.

If the President seeks a P1.2-trillion expenditure program as Salceda revealed, the 2007 budget would be about P200 billion higher than the reenacted outlay and more than P100 billion more than the 2006 level.

Asked if there is still a chance that the P1.053-trillion spending authority that Mrs. Arroyo is seeking could be approved, Salceda said he was awaiting word from the President on whether she would change her all-or-nothing stand on the budget impasse.

"She is standing her ground. She wants her 2006 spending program intact and does not want any reduction," he said.

Last week, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said he and his colleagues would be amenable to restoring the cuts they made provided that at least P8 billion of the reductions was realigned to the construction of new school buildings.

Villar said the P8 billion represents the amounts that the President wants appropriated for her Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan Barangay projects.

Senators had expressed the suspicion that such amounts would form part of Mrs. Arroyo’s pork barrel and could be used for the administration’s Charter change initiative. Malacañang officials said the funds are intended for local government units.

Asked whether the P8 billion, assuming the President agrees to its realignment, would effectively pad the pork barrel funds of senators, Salceda gave an affirmative answer.

Earlier, he said the continued use of the much lower 2005 budget is not at all bad.

"It means that we can substantially bring down the deficit and even wipe it out and balance the budget," he said.

An opposition congressman said there is no more need to approve the 2006 budget.

"The government has operated on the basis of the much lower reenacted budget for seven months and can do so for five more months. Besides, approving the proposed trillion-peso spending authority for this year means giving corrupt bureaucrats an additional P100 billion to steal," Salceda said.

‘Delay, not derail’

In her SONA, the President said that "bickering in politics may delay but should not derail the initiatives that need to be taken on the economy and our 10-point pro-poor, pro-growth and pro-peace agenda."

Congress failed to pass the P1.053-budget for 2006 before it adjourned last June because of differences in the versions passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The House is going by the stand of the Palace that the proposed budget for 2006 should be approved without the P64 billion-cut made by the Senate.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo said she would veto the budget bill if the P64 billion slashed by the Senate from the proposed P1.053-trillion budget would not be restored during the bicameral conference committee deliberations.

She said the new budget would not serve any purpose if revenues for various projects, particularly for the local government units, would not be appropriated and utilized. — With Aurea Calica

GMA asks Congress to pass supplement budget 07/24 6:02:18 PM

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on Congress Monday to pass the supplemental budget during her State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Speaking before lawmakers at the joint chamber of Congress, Pres. Arroyo said the electoral process must be automated before the next electoral poll.

Likewise, she said that local government units must get their rightful share of revenues.

The Senate and the House of Representatives had both clashed over the approval of the General Appropriations Act of 2006. The House was pushing for a budget proposal of P1 trillion which the Senate did not agree to.

'We have the funds', says GMA in state address 07/24 5:42:06 PM

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said on Monday during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the national government now has the funds for projects all over the Philippines.

Speaking before the joint chambers of Congress, Pres. Arroyo said, "Your government is working and is working well."

She added that she was not there to talk about politics but about economics, saying the government has the funds to address social inequity and disparity.

"Too many people going hungry and I will not stop going after poverty," she said in Tagalog.

She likewise declared that the government has funds to go after terrorism, lawless violence, and corruption. Furthermore, it also has the funds for constitutional and electoral changes, she said.

The President cited a number of projects including a continuous highway that will connect Clark Airport in the north, Metro Manila, and Batangas Port in the south.

She further said the government plans to connect the railway lines from the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system and the two Metro Rail Transit systems in Metro Manila as well as extend the LRT to Bacoor.

She also said that the government will upgrade the link between the two train systems, i.e. North Rail to Clark and South Rail in Lucena all the way to Bicol.

Elaborating on her plan, she cited a number of tourism investments throughout the country via the building of airports, roll-on and roll-off stations, more roads, and the creation of the Nautical Highway system.

Arroyo unveils spending program to jumpstart economy 07/24 6:40:56 PM

MANILA (AFP) - President Gloria Arroyo on Monday outlined a massive spending program to kickstart the economy and urged opponents demanding her ouster to give up what she described as a lost cause.

Delivering her annual state of the nation address to Congress, Arroyo said the government would build or upgrade at least 20 airports as well as roads, railways, bridges, ports and ferry services, tap water and irrigation projects.

"Because of our economic reforms, we now have the funds to address social inequity and economic disparity," she said, referring to key tax legislation passed in the previous two years.

"Now we can fund our medium-term public investment program."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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