BUSINESS HEADLINES THIS PAST WEEK...

BICAM OKs 2015 BUDGET;  P2.606-TRILLION BUDGET TO BE SEPARATELY RATIFIED BY SENATE AND HOUSE 

DEC 11 --The bicameral conference committee approved yesterday the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, a consolidation of the Senate and House of Representatives versions. However, P72.5 billion of the budget was realigned. The report of the committee was expected to be ratified separately by both chambers upon submission by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. After ratification, the proposed budget will be sent to Malacañang for President Aquino’s signature. Ungab expressed hopes that the bicameral committee report will be ratified by the Lower House as soon as it constitutes a quorum last night. Should it fail, the Lower Chamber may still vote on the issue today or tomorrow as the House leadership called for plenary sessions to make up for the cancelled session due to typhoon “Ruby.”  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Declining global oil prices dampen Phl stocks  

DEC 11 --The local benchmark index slumped for the fourth consecutive session yesterday as declining oil prices scared off investors. The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) lost 0.12 percent or 8.79 points to close at 7,175.08, while the broader All Shares index fell 0.11 percent or 4.67 points at 4,220.89. Alexander Tiu, analyst at AB Capital Securities Inc., said Wednesday’s outcome was on the back of international leads fueled primarily by fear spurred among investors by the declining oil prices. “Fundamentally, the Philippines should not be affected by this. However, investors reduced risks. It was investors taking the risk off the table,” Tiu said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Kuwait emir says Gulf development hit by oil price  

DEC 10 --PHOTO: From left, Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al-Saeed, Omani Deputy Premier, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Kuwaiti Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and The GCC Secretary General, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani pose for a photograph during a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. AP  DOHA, Qatar — Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah says Gulf countries’ national development programs are being affected by the slide in oil prices, which have hit the oil-producing and exporting countries’ incomes. Al-Sabah was speaking at the annual summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday, the same day that the price of Brent crude oil hit a five-year low of $65. That represents a 43 percent drop since the summer. An International Monetary Fund report on Kuwait also released Tuesday said that a decline in oil prices should not trigger immediate spending cuts, but that it places more urgency on implementing the government’s medium-term consolidation plans to contain current spending levels.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Foreign entrants, private sector interest is key   

PHOTO: Philippine construction shows steady growth  --Erlinda Tanuan does not mind the 30km commute to work that takes 90 minutes each way, She does not regret building a 160 square meter house on Better Living Parañaque, a suburb south of Manila. “My husband and I can now enjoy complete privacy,” says the 40-year old call center manager, who, until recently, had no choice but to live with her mother in an overcrowded ancestral home in the capital.
Infrastructure spending to upgrade airports, seaports, highways, and tourism facilities, will be a major factor for the industry’s growth. Tanuan is not alone. With a housing shortfall expected to rise to 5.8m homes by 2016, from 3.6m in 2010, according to government estimates, overcrowding is common. But thanks to record low interest rates and lower downpayment requirements, thousands have for the first time found themselves able to afford their own homes. The phenomenon is helping to fuel a construction boom that is helping boost the Philippine economy – one of Asia’s fastest growing in the past two years. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO (STOCK EXCHANGE) Bourse rallies as Moody upgrades credit rating 

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The stock market closed the week positively following Moody's Investors Service's upgrade of Philippines's credit rating. The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index jumped by 2.15 percent or 152.11 points to 7,224.21, while the broader all-share index gained 1.83 percent or 76.06 points to 4,238.28. Trading volume reached 1.81 billion shares worth P11.61 billion ($260.49 million) with 128 stocks advancing, 49 declining, and 44 unchanged. All six counters were up. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Consumer pessimism in the  PH economy persists

CES: Optimistic households grew in Q4 but still outnumbered --Consumer sentiment about the Philippine economy improved in the fourth quarter in terms of the number of optimistic households but remained outnumbered by those who viewed their prospects negatively, the central bank’s latest Consumer Expectations Survey (CES) showed.
In a press briefing on Friday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the overall confidence index (CI) in the fourth quarter of 2014 clawed its way back to minus 21.8 percent from minus 26.3 percent in the third quarter of the year.
Year-on-year, data showed that the CI during the quarter was slightly lower than the minus 21.3 percent CI in the same quarter of 2013.
“The higher but still negative CI in the fourth quarter means that the number of the households with an optimistic outlook increased but they continued to be outnumbered by those who think otherwise,” the BSP said. Respondents who did indicate an improved outlook during the current quarter pointed to expectations of stable commodity prices, availability of more jobs and increases in the number of employed family members, and good harvests. Additional income/higher salary due to receipt of Christmas bonuses and 13th month pay, as well as brisker business activity leading to higher household income also contributed to the positive sentiment. Better outlook for 2015 CONTINUE READING...

ALSO Editorial: Corruption institutionalized in Bicam’s Budget Act 

OKAY, the call to stop the corrupt use of taxpayers’ money by removing lump sum appropriations in the multi-trillion-peso 2015 budget was probably an impossible dream—a “suntok sa buwan” (throwing a punch at the moon) as the vivid Tagalog expression says. After all, the direct beneficiaries of the pork are the lawmakers themselves, the guys who are passing the law. But, one would have thought that the matter of redefining “savings” as desired by President BS Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was a challenge to the higher levels of our lawmakers’ consciences. Until last Wednesday, we and other Filipinos who still hoped the senators and representatives who make up the powerful Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee would rise to that exalted level of patriotism and statesmanship that would make them reject the redefinition demanded by the President and his Budget secretary. Alas, the honorable members of the Bicam proved to be as lacking in heroic virtues as the most corrupt of the congressmen. They have virtually institutionalized corruption in handling the national budget. READ FULL EDITORIAL FROM THE MANILA TIMES...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Bicam OKs 2015 budget; Senate, House prepare to ratify P2.606-trillion budget

MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Ben R. Rosario & Mario B. Casayuran - The bicameral conference committee approved yesterday the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, a consolidation of the Senate and House of Representatives versions. However, P72.5 billion of the budget was realigned.

The report of the committee was expected to be ratified separately by both chambers upon submission by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. After ratification, the proposed budget will be sent to Malacañang for President Aquino’s signature.

Ungab expressed hopes that the bicameral committee report will be ratified by the Lower House as soon as it constitutes a quorum last night.

Should it fail, the Lower Chamber may still vote on the issue today or tomorrow as the House leadership called for plenary sessions to make up for the cancelled session due to typhoon “Ruby.”

P8-B BANGSAMORO FUND

Escudero also said that the committee did not restore P8 billion for the Bangsamoro Basic Law because it was part of a proposed budget errata submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“If the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be approved, there will be a Bangsamoro Transition Commission which will handle the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) fund amounting to P24 billion. That’s enough (for Bangsamoro),” Escudero stressed.

In yesterday’s second bicameral conference committee meeting at the Senate, Guimaras Rep. Jorge Carlos “JC” Rahman Nava, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, represented the House panel.

Escudero said ironing out of the differing versions of the national budget by both panels went smoothly during the brief meeting.

Escudero said a big chunk of the realigned funds came from the unprogrammed funds from the Metro Rail Transit (MRT). The bicameral committees only restored for MRT the payment for the remaining bonds, which the government is paying interests at 15 percent, and the P6.6 billion for the payment of taxes in connection with the MRT Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract.

The remaining bonds, according to Escudero, are approximately P4 billion or 16 percent of the bonds not bought by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank.

The rehabilitation of the MRT in the unprogrammed fund is more or less P5 billion, he added.

SENATE VERSION ADOPTED

Vital in the approved report is the definition of “savings’” that was adopted from the Senate’s version of the budget measure.

Under the Senate version, “savings” – the source of the much-criticized Disbursement Acceleration Program introduced by the Aquino administration – can only be declared if a funded project in 2015 has not commenced nor completed and at no fault on the part of the government agency concerned.

Escudero said that the committee agreed to adopt the Senate version on the definition of “savings.” The bicameral committees prohibit post-budget enactment intervention of projects by lawmakers.

The Senate’s definition of savings, as approved, refers to portions or balances of any released appropriations which have not been obligated as a result of any of the following:

- Final discontinuance or abandonment of an ongoing program, activity, or project (P/A/P) by the head of the agency concerned due to causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the concerned agency to implement the said P/A/P during the validity of the appropriations.

- Non-commencement of the P/A/P for which the appropriations is released. For this purpose, non-commencement shall refer to the inability of the agency or its duly authorized procurement agent to obligate the released allotment or other causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the agency concerned during the validity of the appropriations.

- Decreased cost resulting from improved efficiency during the implementation or until the completion by agencies of their P/A/Ps; provided that the agencies will still be able to deliver the targets and services as approved in the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget); and

- Difference between the approved budget for the contract and the contract award price.

Savings may likewise refer to available balances of appropriations arising from unused compensation or abolished positions; non-entitlement to allowance and benefits; leaves of absence without pay; and unutilized pension or benefits, and retirement benefits arising from death of pensioners, decrease in the number of retirees, or other related causes.

Programmed appropriations which have not been released or allotments not obligated due to the fault of the agency concerned shall not be considered savings.

PENAL PROVISIONS

Escudero also said that the penal provisions against the illegal use of appropriations have been placed at the level of department secretaries.

He said they agreed not to provide penal provisions, such as suspension, fine, or imprisonment in the budget because it might be struck down by the Supreme Court as a rider “because it is not an integral part of the budget.”

He said that in case of irregular use of the budget, penalties are already in place in the Revised Administrative Code, the Code of Unethical Conduct, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

PALACE GRATEFUL

Malacañang thanked the Senate and Congress for the approval of the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget in the bicameral conference committee.

“We’d like to thank our fellow workers in Congress and Senate for devoting their time and attention to the crafting of the national budget,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing Wednesday. (With a report from Madel Sabater Namit)


FROM PHILSTAR

Declining global oil prices dampen Phl stocks By Richmond S. Mercurio (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 11, 2014 - 12:00am 7 77 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The local benchmark index slumped for the fourth consecutive session yesterday as declining oil prices scared off investors.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) lost 0.12 percent or 8.79 points to close at 7,175.08, while the broader All Shares index fell 0.11 percent or 4.67 points at 4,220.89.

Alexander Tiu, analyst at AB Capital Securities Inc., said Wednesday’s outcome was on the back of international leads fueled primarily by fear spurred among investors by the declining oil prices.

“Fundamentally, the Philippines should not be affected by this. However, investors reduced risks. It was investors taking the risk off the table,” Tiu said.

Brent crude declined to $66.29 a barrel while US crude futures fell to $63.18 a barrel.

Locally, Escartin said everything was normal especially as Typhoon Ruby failed to meet expectations.

“People are expecting much worse. So what happened was a good thing for the market,” he said.

Still, decliners continued to dominate advancers, 109 to 64, while 52 stocks were unchanged. Value turnover thinned to P8.69 billion from P10 billion the previous day.

Four counters ended in the red led by mining and oil firms which dropped 0.74 percent or 115.75. Financial firms, meanwhile, gained 0.40 percent or 6.71 points.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Kuwait emir says Gulf development hit by oil price Associated Press 10:50 AM | Wednesday, December 10th, 2014


From left, Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al-Saeed, Omani Deputy Premier, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Kuwaiti Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and The GCC Secretary General, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani pose for a photograph during a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. AP

DOHA, Qatar — Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah says Gulf countries’ national development programs are being affected by the slide in oil prices, which have hit the oil-producing and exporting countries’ incomes.

Al-Sabah was speaking at the annual summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday, the same day that the price of Brent crude oil hit a five-year low of $65. That represents a 43 percent drop since the summer.

An International Monetary Fund report on Kuwait also released Tuesday said that a decline in oil prices should not trigger immediate spending cuts, but that it places more urgency on implementing the government’s medium-term consolidation plans to contain current spending levels.


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Foreign entrants, private sector interest is key By MST News | Dec. 12, 2014 at 06:50pm 


Philippine construction shows steady growth

Erlinda Tanuan does not mind the 30km commute to work that takes 90 minutes each way, She does not regret building a 160 square meter house on Better Living Parañaque, a suburb south of Manila.

“My husband and I can now enjoy complete privacy,” says the 40-year old call center manager, who, until recently, had no choice but to live with her mother in an overcrowded ancestral home in the capital.

Infrastructure spending to upgrade airports, seaports, highways, and tourism facilities, will be a major factor for the industry’s growth.
Tanuan is not alone. With a housing shortfall expected to rise to 5.8m homes by 2016, from 3.6m in 2010, according to government estimates, overcrowding is common. But thanks to record low interest rates and lower downpayment requirements, thousands have for the first time found themselves able to afford their own homes.

The phenomenon is helping to fuel a construction boom that is helping boost the Philippine economy – one of Asia’s fastest growing in the past two years.

Despite the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda in November, 2013 and Typhoon Hagupit last week (which as of press time killed 30 people and destroyed over a thousand homes), industry data is pointing to a full year economic growth in 2014. This follows a 7.2 per cent rise in 2013, and a 6.8 per cent spurt in 2012, the first time in over 20 years that the Philippines posted growth above 6 per cent for three consecutive years. By value, construction and real estate sectors accounted for almost a fifth of the economy – almost as much as manufacturing.

Increased infrastructure spending

Underlining the speed of development, David Young, managing director of Colliers International, a real estate consultancy in Manila, estimates that up to 25,000 residential condominium units will be built in the city’s main business districts in the two-year period to 2016. That is almost half the stock of 58,000 units built in the last 40 years.

Demand is coming from Filipinos working overseas as well as a growing middle class. Millet Liberato, a 32-year-old public relations executive, said: “I like living in my condominium here at Bonifacio Global City despite being a little small because it signifies an independent lifestyle.”

In a business forum organized recently by Punongbayan and Araullo, an audit and outsourcing services firm, Young calculated that between 2014 and 2016, 1.5m sq m of new offices will be constructed – a quarter as much again as the 6.2m sq m existing at the end of 2013, he said. Most is being built in anticipation of the continued growth in call centres and other business outsourcing services, a sector expected to double its workforce to 1.3m by 2016.

Largely helped by significant public spending in infrastructure, the construction sector saw robust growth in 2013 and the second half of 2014. An improved investment climate, which saw a steady flow of remittances and inward investments directed at the property sector, also played a part in spurring construction activity. Investment-rate upgrades from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s continue to make the country an attractive investment destination. Earlier this year, the Asian Development Bank declared that the outlook for construction remained “bright.”

Real growth for the construction sector is forecast to average an annual growth of 7.9 percent between 2014 and 2017. The boom in construction, especially in the residential subsector, is in turn pushing demand for power. Therefore demand for utilities-related construction projects (power stations, transmission lines, water treatment facilities) is expected to increase going forward.

Challenges ahead

But most foreign participation in this growth is limited to equity and technical partners for local firms bidding for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects. The playing field in the construction sector still remains tilted in favour of domestic firms.

A lack of transparency hurts the sector’s competitiveness. There have been conflicts over contractual rights, such as legal wrangling over the privatization of Ninoy Aquino International Airport 3 and the South Luzon Expressway toll bridge.

True, the infrastructure sector presents numerous potential opportunities, but its relative small size compared to bigger neighbors means the country’s risk-reward trade-off for large investors is not as attractive as some other Asian countries.

Possible risks to growth might be expected from a slower recovery of the global market, delays in rolling out large-scale PPP projects, and possible asset price bubbles in the real estate sector.

Optimism abounds

Still, local stakeholders including architects, engineers, real estate firms have expressed strong optimism about the construction sector and its allied industries. “The construction business will definitely enjoy a banner year in 2014,” said Young, as he pointed to the government’s launching of a massive infrastructure development program with nine major projects nationwide costing P62.3 billion. The National Economic and Development Authority said a million homes are in various stages of construction in typhoon-hit areas. Building activities outside of Yolanda and Hagupit-affected areas, are also expected to contribute to the growth next year, such as preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Manila in 2015.


FROM PHILSTAR

Bourse rallies as Moody upgrades credit rating (philstar.com) | Updated December 12, 2014 - 8:00pm 0 0 googleplus

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The stock market closed the week positively following Moody's Investors Service's upgrade of Philippines's credit rating.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index jumped by 2.15 percent or 152.11 points to 7,224.21, while the broader all-share index gained 1.83 percent or 76.06 points to 4,238.28.

Trading volume reached 1.81 billion shares worth P11.61 billion ($260.49 million) with 128 stocks advancing, 49 declining, and 44 unchanged.

All six counters were up.

"The market finally broke its five-day losing streak after Moody's upgraded the country's credit rating to Baa2," online brokerage 2TradeAsia.com said in its daily stock market comment.

Moreover, news that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas maintained benchmark rates and positive economic data coming from the U.S. provided some support following the market's rout in the previous session.

The market continued to slide this week, going to as low as 7, 072.10 due to the continued decline in oil prices.

2TradeAsia.com put immediate support at 7,070, while resistance is seen at 7,120.

Stocks in the 30-company index were mostly up. These include BDO Unibank, Inc., SM Prime Holdings, Inc., and Alliance Global Group, Inc.


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Consumer pessimism re PHL economy persists December 12, 2014 9:57 pm by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO Reporter


PHOTO COURTESY OF INTERAKSYON.COM

CES: Optimistic households grew in Q4 but still outnumbered.

Consumer sentiment about the Philippine economy improved in the fourth quarter in terms of the number of optimistic households but remained outnumbered by those who viewed their prospects negatively, the central bank’s latest Consumer Expectations Survey (CES) showed.

In a press briefing on Friday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the overall confidence index (CI) in the fourth quarter of 2014 clawed its way back to minus 21.8 percent from minus 26.3 percent in the third quarter of the year.

Year-on-year, data showed that the CI during the quarter was slightly lower than the minus 21.3 percent CI in the same quarter of 2013.
“The higher but still negative CI in the fourth quarter means that the number of the households with an optimistic outlook increased but they continued to be outnumbered by those who think otherwise,” the BSP said.

Respondents who did indicate an improved outlook during the current quarter pointed to expectations of stable commodity prices, availability of more jobs and increases in the number of employed family members, and good harvests.

Additional income/higher salary due to receipt of Christmas bonuses and 13th month pay, as well as brisker business activity leading to higher household income also contributed to the positive sentiment.

Better outlook for 2015

For the next quarter, consumer expectations turned sanguine as the CI moved into positive territory. CI for the first quarter of 2015 edged upward to 0.7 percent from minus 1 percent a quarter ago.

“This indicates that the number of households with positive outlook increased and exceeded those with negative views,” the survey stated.
The CI is computed as the percentage of households that answered in the affirmative less the percentage of households that answered in the negative with respect to their views on a given indicator.

Consumer confidence is measured across three indicators: the country’s economic condition, family financial situation, and family income.
The CES is a quarterly survey of households drawn from the Philippine Statistics Authority-National Statistics Office’s Master Sample List of Households, which is considered a representative sample of households nationwide.

The survey was conducted from October 1 to 11, 2014 and surveyed 6,389 households nationwide.


MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL

Corruption institutionalized in Bicam’s Budget Act

OKAY, the call to stop the corrupt use of taxpayers’ money by removing lump sum appropriations in the multi-trillion-peso 2015 budget was probably an impossible dream—a “suntok sa buwan” (throwing a punch at the moon) as the vivid Tagalog expression says. After all, the direct beneficiaries of the pork are the lawmakers themselves, the guys who are passing the law.

But, one would have thought that the matter of redefining “savings” as desired by President BS Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was a challenge to the higher levels of our lawmakers’ consciences.

Until last Wednesday, we and other Filipinos who still hoped the senators and representatives who make up the powerful Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee would rise to that exalted level of patriotism and statesmanship that would make them reject the redefinition demanded by the President and his Budget secretary. Alas, the honorable members of the Bicam proved to be as lacking in heroic virtues as the most corrupt of the congressmen.

They have virtually institutionalized corruption in handling the national budget.

Social Watch Philippines (SWP) Lead Convenor Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones (a Manila Times columnist), issued a statement pointing out that, after her organization thoroughly analyzed the 2015 Budget Law that came out of the Bicam, they find that the redefinition of “savings” desired by Malacañang is still in the law through a rewording.

SWP/Prof Briones statement

“The Executive can still declare ‘savings’ to be able for him to use as he likes.Although the phrase ‘at any time’ has been removed from the House of Representatives’ General Appropriations Bill (GAB), it was replaced with a re-wording in Sec. 68 (a) of the meaning of savings in the Bicam version as “portions or balances released… which have not been obligated… during the validity of the appropriations.”

“Sec. 68. Meaning of Savings. Savings refer to portions or balances of any released appropriations in this [General Appropriations] act which have not been obligated as a result of any of the following:

(a) FINAL discontinuance or abandonment of an on-going program, activity or project (P/A/P) by the head of the agency concerned due to causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the said agency which would not render it possible for the agency to implement the said P/A/P during the validity of the appropriations.”

“Since the appropriations are valid from day one of next year until it ends, the intention to declare savings any time of the year is still present.

“The declaration of savings on a non-definite time-frame provided the mechanism for the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the redefinition effectively eliminates the Congress’ vaunted ‘Power of the Purse.’

“This leeway would give DAP ‘legitimacy,’ despite the Supreme Court ruling on its unconstitutionality. This touches issues on the balance of power between the Executive and the Legislative, since portions of the DAP were essentially pork-barrel for Legislators; not much different from the likewise SC declared unconstitutional Priority Development Acceleration Fund (PDAF). The Bicam-passed 2015 Budget cannot reasonably be said to be ‘pork-less’ or ‘DAP-less.

“The General Appropriations Act, in essence, becomes a superfluous law because such redefinitions would give the Executive the capability to realign it according to P/A/P’s it deems ‘worthy,’ regardless of appropriations already written in the 2015 GAA. The surrender of Congress to the Executive profoundly affects the balance of powers among the branches of government, where the budget is made politically vulnerable due to the lack of transparency and accountability.

“There is not much of an improvement in the amendment that savings can only be acquired from ‘released’ appropriations/allotments (Sec. 68). The very fact that released appropriations/allotments can be declared savings still at any time of the year makes the provision susceptible to realignment by the Executive.

“There are also no clear restrictions as to when the Executive may be allowed to withdraw unobligated allotments from the agencies. The qualifier ‘causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of agency’ (Sec 68.a) is likewise vague. It is similar to the original provision in the GAB allowing savings for ‘justifiable causes.

“The Bicam also did not touch the Department of Budget and Management’s ‘errata’, erroneously considered as budget ‘amendments’ and were hence restored in the Bicam-approved 2015 Budget Bill.”

Call on citizens: Express dissent

Prof. Briones’ statement ends with this serious call to Filipinos:
“The lack of balance of powers among the three branches of government and the political machinations in the 2015 Budget are salient issues for the Filipino people as it affects how the nation proceeds into governance as a functional democracy. Social Watch Philippines therefore challenges citizens to express dissent over the pork and DAP-laden 2015 Budget, and hold the Executive and Legislative accountable for not acting in accordance with the people’s interests.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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