MANILA, JULY 24, 2007
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo will seek a P1.226-trillion national budget for next year to support her “super regions” program and other projects, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said yesterday.

“We are still putting together the budget for 2008, but the preliminary estimate is that it would be P90 billion more than this year’s P1.136 trillion,” he said.

He said the President would submit her budget proposal to the House of Representatives and the Senate not later than Aug. 22.

Under the Constitution, she has one month from the opening of the annual session of Congress to present her proposed expenditure program.

In her State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of the Senate and the House yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo said Congress should continue to fund her program to create super regions by linking these areas through road networks, seaports and airports.

She said some of the needed infrastructure projects have already been undertaken since she unveiled such a program in her SONA last year.

She referred to the huge amounts of funds she is seeking as “pork that is good for your health.”

For the education sector, Mrs. Arroyo said she wants an appropriation of P30 billion more, from P120 billion to P150 billion.

Education would continue to get the biggest slice of the national budget pursuant to the Constitution, she said.

Reacting to the presidential address, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the President should immediately certify the measures she wants Congress to pass.

He said he would support legislative proposals that would further strengthen the protection of people’s rights against possible abuse by law enforcers and other government agents, reduce corruption and make medicine affordable to the poor.

The last Congress failed to approve the cheap medicine bill because the House lacked quorum to pass its version of the measure.

Neophyte Rep. Rex Gathalian of Valenzuela City said the President’s program to develop super regions “deserves the support of Congress and our people.”

“If this is realized, the families of millions of overseas Filipino workers will be the first to rejoice since their loved ones will no longer work abroad, which is a big sacrifice for them,” he said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said Mrs. Arroyo “gave (lawmakers) a lecture on geography.”

“Like previous SONAs, this one is long on rhetoric, short on action. What the nation needs are solutions to its problems,” he said.

Former Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales said the President “sounded like a tourist guide and reduced economic vision into pork, projects and personal loyalties.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved