MANILA, DECEMBER 27, 2010 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - The P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011, dubbed as the “Reform Budget” owing to austerity measures and zero-based budgeting implemented by the new administration, will be signed into law today by President Aquino.

The ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall in Malacañang, and will most likely be attended by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and several ranking lawmakers.

The budget signing will be a first in 11 years where the capital outlay has always been re-enacted during the nine-year term of former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo until last June. The last time the budget was signed on time was during the administration of former President Joseph Estrada in 1999.

There were virtually no revisions in the proposed budget, among them the P21-billion conditional cash transfers (CCT) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and several other allocations, including the education sector, which has the lion’s share.

Abad stressed that this early enactment is “not merely a temporal matter, for it allows the Aquino administration to have a good and early start in implementing its priority programs in poverty reduction and human development.”

“Congress did not only agree with our proposed spending levels for conditional cash transfers, basic education and maternal and child healthcare. They also supported our proposed measures to shed daylight in the disbursement of public funds,” he said.

Abad said members of the Cabinet have already started preparing for the execution of next year’s expenditure plan, and have been holding coordination meetings to flesh out spending on key infrastructure projects of the administration.

Already, the Department of Budget and Management has been holding budget execution coordination meetings with six agencies – Public Works, Transportation and Communications, Agriculture, Education, Health and Social Welfare and Development – to draw up a strategy.

“This will ensure that spending on these programs or projects are appropriately timed during the first half of the year. The 2011 Reform Budget will be passed early, and it is just appropriate for us to implement this in a timely manner,” Abad said.

He said the budget execution strategy, once approved by the President, will set the premises, objectives, and key policies in the implementation of the 2011 General Appropriations Act.

Abad said the budget execution coordination meetings seek to flesh out the work, as well as the monthly schedule of cash requirements, of the six line agencies.

These schedules intend to show not only the budgetary disbursements but also the outputs to be realized, he said.

Abad noted that these departments have a combined new-programmed appropriation of roughly 46 percent of total new-programmed appropriations for 2011.

He said the DBM would explore ways to accelerate allotments and issuance of cash to support the six departments’ implementation of their critical programs and projects.

For instance, the Department of Education (DepEd) should be able to determine the schedule of classrooms to be built before the school year starts, and the DBM should be able to match the funding requirements needed for this to be realized, Abad pointed out.

“This mechanism also allows us to take a step towards output- and outcome-based budgeting. In other words, we do not want to just spend for the sake of spending,” he said.

For his part, House appropriations committee chairman Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said next year’s budget “will help address mounting unemployment.”

“The government is the country’s single largest consumer and biggest employer. Its spending will help propel economic as well as jobs (growth),” he said.

Barzaga said the government would pay out some P526 billion in salaries and benefits to its more than one million personnel, thus driving household spending.

He said the P148.2-billion fresh allocation for new public infrastructure would be another driver of jobs growth.

“A provision in the budget requires contractors to adopt a labor-intensive mode of implementation of infrastructure projects. Priority hiring will be accorded to the underprivileged residents of local communities where the projects are located,” he added.

The infrastructure spending would benefit poor households, mainly through construction-related jobs, Barzaga stressed.

He pointed out that in terms of direct hiring, the government would recruit 10,000 teachers and 4,000 police, fire and jail officers in 2011.

The latest Labor Force Survey showed that some 2.8 million Filipinos were totally without jobs in October, up from 2.72 million in the same month in 2009.

The survey indicated that some 80,000 able-bodied Filipinos aged 15 years old and above joined the ranks of the unemployed over the 12-month period.

The number of underemployed Filipinos – those only partially employed and actively seeking longer hours of work – also increased by 260,000 heads over the same period, from 6.88 million to 7.14 million, according to the survey. –With Jess Diaz


Aquino vows to continue reform measures to improve the lives of poor Filipinos News - PHL Saturday, 18 December 2010 22:28

President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to continue all reform measures he implemented despite the effort of his critics and rivals to preempt his agenda to change the nation from culture of corruption.

“Nananatili pa rin po ang ating panata sa taumbayan: Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” the President said in his speech Friday afternoon during the launching of the coffee table book “The Inaugural: The Inside Story of the Aquino Presidency” at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Malate, Manila.

Speaking in front of 10,000 volunteers, the President said that he remains firm in his objective to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor thru the passage of the 2011 Reform Budget that has already been approved by the House of the Representatives.

In the 2011 budget, he said, some P560.8 billion or 34.1% of the total budget has been allocated for the implementation of social services and a separate P271.67 billion for the education modernization program.

“We shall make sure that these funds do not go to waste, as it will be spent for projects that are necessary and will benefit the many,” the President assured his supporters.

During the program, the Chief Rxecutive acknowledged the efforts of the group through the spirit of volunteerism they initiated during the presidential campaign.

He personally handed over signed copies of his coffee table book “The Inaugural” to 14 sponsors.

Stage director and producer, Maria Montelibano, the publisher of “The Inaugural: The Inside Story of the Aquino Presidency,” said the book tackled the young Aquino’s difficult journey to the presidency.

She informed the President that the coffee table book “chronicles the inspiring victory of one person – not merely from one election – but from a political journey culminating with the last election.”

Montelibano, is a former chief of the Presidential Broadcast Staff during President Corazon Aquino and communications chief during Noynoy’s presidential campaign.

The 181-page hardbound coffee table book has over 100 photos captured by the country’s top lensmen including Teodoro “Ted” Aljibe, chief photographer of the Agence FrancePresse (AFP); Erik De Castro of Reuters; Alberto “Bullit” Marquez, a veteran photojournalist; Dennis M. Sabangan of the European Press/photo Agency (EPA); and Jay N. Morales, chief of the Presidential Photographers Division and close-in photographer of Aquino since he was a senator.

Several journalists, campaign volunteers and friends also contributed in the publication of the book that include Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, Assistant Secretary for Media Relations Rey Marfil, Nina Terol Zialcita, Undersecretary George Syliangco, Undersecretary Christopher Tio, Ofelia Samar-Sy, Alexander BAngsoy, Anton H. Lim, Lynette Baldivino, Cesar Sarino, Jim Paredes, Mae Paner, columnist Conrado De Quiros, Pastor “Boy” Saycon, Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, broadcast journalist Jing Magsaysay, Lawyer Alex Lacson, Jan Co Chua, Ward Luarca, Mercedes “Peachy” Roces, Wilfrido Villacorta, William Esposo, among others.

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