MANILA, JULY 27, 2011 (STAR) Iris C. Gonzales, Jess Diaz and Delon Porcalla - President Aquino is scheduled to submit to Congress today the government’s proposed P1.816-trillion national budget for 2012, the first time after more than a decade that the budget would be submitted just a day after delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said during the Arroyo administration, the proposed budgets barely made it to the deadline stipulated in the Constitution.

The last time the budget proposal was submitted a day after the SONA was on July 27, 1999, after former President Estrada’s second SONA on July 26.

Abad noted that while the 2001 budget was submitted to Congress on July 24, 2000 – the same day Estrada delivered his last SONA – it was not passed and the previous year’s budget was re-enacted.

He said the earliest budget submission was made on Aug. 6, 2003 for the 2004 national budget.

With the early submission of the budget, Abad said Congress may be able to approve the proposal before Christmas.

“Since the House leadership has agreed to begin its budget deliberations on Aug. 1, there is a great chance that the 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA) will be approved before Christmas,” he said.

The proposed budget for 2012 is higher by P171 billion or 10.4 percent over the current year’s P1.645-trillion national budget, and represents 16.5 percent of the projected gross domestic product (GDP). It is based on a conservative growth assumption of 5.5 percent, even as the administration continues to vie for a seven- to eight-percent growth.

Part of the budget increase is expected to be used to augment funds for the administration’s conditinal cash transfer (CCT) program to the “poorest of the poor.”

Malacanang have earlier said the President planned to infuse more funds into the program, which has an appropriation of P22 billion this year.

The government hopes the deficit would narrow to P286 billion or 2.6 percent of GDP, lower than this year’s target of P300 billion or three percent of GDP. This is in line with the goal to significantly reduce the budget deficit to two percent of GDP by 2013.

Abad said the budget puts strong emphasis on anti-corruption and good governance, poverty reduction and the empowerment of the poor, inclusive economic growth, just and lasting peace and the rule of law and integrity of the environment.

“We have scaled-up funding for programs and projects that lead to direct, immediate and substantial benefits to the poor. At the same time, we scaled-down funding for activities which have been ineffective and prone to corruption,” he said.

In remarks marking the opening of the second regular congressional session, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed prompt action on the President’s proposed spending program for next year.

“As we have done in the past, we must act promptly and decisively on next year’s national budget and forever veer away from the practice of relying on a re-enacted appropriations act,” he said.

“By doing so,w e ensure that our public expenditure program remains relevant and supportive of our social advocacy, and responsive to the problems experienced on the ground,” he said.

He said his chamber’s “decision to shield the conditional cash transfer program from the threat of reduction, and our will to shepeherd it despite criticism and widespread pessimism, proved correct.”

“As a result, we have helped salvage countless families fromthe dehumanization of hunger, and more importantly, generated hope for the better for those who have gotten used to getting so little,” he added.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the early submission of the budget would allow the committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya of Cavite to start hearings early.

“In all likelihood, the committee would already start deliberations on the budget as early as next week,” he said.

He said consideration of the measure would start with the macroeconomic, revenue targets and other general assumptions used in putting together the budget proposal.

Last year, though the President presented the budget a mont after his SONA, Congress approved it in record time — before the year 2010 ended.


MBC takes note of Aquino’s silence on PPP, RH bill in SONA By: Abigail L. Ho Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:36 am | Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 0share6 6

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino’s almost hour-long State of the Nation Address mentioned a lot of things, but was conspicuously silent on the public-private partnership (PPP) program, the supposed centerpiece of his administration.

Makati Business Club executive director Peter Angelo Perfecto said that since the program was brought up at the previous SONA, the business community expected it to take prominence in this year’s speech. However, there was not even a remote mention of it.

“But I think we do understand why. Although it’s a priority project, this administration is being extra-careful of not repeating past mistakes. He mentioned the dredging project again, which could be an inference on the PPP,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Perfecto was referring to President Aquino’s mention of the P18.7-billion Laguna Lake dredging project, which the government stopped, calling it an “ill-advised plan.”

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Francis Chua said the general feedback from industry on the PPP program was that “the movement has been a little slow.”

However, like Perfecto, he said this was understandable, considering the size of the projects lined up for auction and the investments required to make these investments happen.

“Hearing what the President said today, we understand why. What they’re doing now is cleaning the backyard, to see that things are in order so everything will be clean and transparent,” Chua said in a separate interview, adding that the business sector had no problems with this as it would be in line with the government’s strong anti-corruption stance.

Chua said the Aquino administration had done a good job so far in trying to curb corruption.

“We’re expecting a government that’s clean and without corruption. This is very basic for nation-building. He’s said this before and we’re seeing it going on at the same time. We’re seeing it happen,” Chua said.

Perfecto added that the government’s anti-corruption focus was something that MBC welcomed. However, the rest of the country had to think along the same lines if government were to stamp out corruption.

“There’s this mindset that we should just move on and that the President should stop being vindictive. We’re worried about that kind of mindset. It’s not really about being vindictive. How can we move on? There has to be justice on those who stole from the country. We can’t just sweep thing under the rug,” Perfecto said.

Perfecto added that it would be important that cases against those “who robbed the country blind” be filed.

The appointment of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman, he said, was a step in the right direction.

“We’re happy about her appointment. We look forward to the filing of stronger, more consistent cases,” Perfecto said.

While the Aquino government’s efforts to curb corruption were very commendable, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes said these were not enough to make the country more attractive to foreign investors.

“Many foreign investors are looking not just for a government that is less corrupt and displays sound macroeconomic management. They have been asking for a more welcoming investment climate that reduces their business costs and creates new investment opportunities,” Forbes said

“Making the Foreign Investment Negative List less negative would be a good start to a more level playing field for foreign equity and professionals. Keeping the status quo most likely means the Philippines will continue to receive the lowest levels of (foreign direct investments) among the Asean-6 economies,” Forbes added.

Foreign investors also continued to be apprehensive of the power situation in the country, both on the supply and price aspects. The success of the “ambitious” PPP and tourism programs, the poor development of the agribusiness and mining sectors, and the economic development of conflict-affected regions in Mindanao remain sources of concern.

Perfecto also pointed out that the reproductive health bill and policy directions on mining were absent from the President’s SONA – items that MBC expected to be included there.

But overall, both Perfecto and Chua were in agreement that the administration was still going in the right direction.

Chua said efforts to bridge the jobs-skills mismatch were commendable and should be become more aggressive in the years to come.

“We agree with the President on education, that there should be proper matching between education and industry needs. The PCCI has been trying to move with this over the past years. It’s good that the President picked it up. We’re going in the proper direction. This will help to dramatically reduce unemployment,” Chua said.

Perfecto, on the other hand, said the President was right in taking “a firm position” on the Spratlys issue.

“But this issue should be settled diplomatically, through the United Nations and the Asean. We can’t go to war with China, that’s for sure, but the message is we won’t simply surrender our claims and be bullied. The issue goes beyond us, as it concerns the other claimants as well,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved