MANILA, AUGUST 21, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang will formally submit to Congress tomorrow its P1.227-trillion national appropriation, which officials described as “one of the best budgets ever” owing to the sufficient amount of revenues to back it up.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. expressed hope that the House of Representatives, which would scrutinize the proposed national expenditure program, would approve the measure swiftly.

“I don’t see any reason why this (national budget) will not be approved. It’s probably one of the best budgets ever considering (that) a few years back we’re hard up on revenues,” Andaya said.

The budget is P91 billion higher than this year’s appropriation.

He said the proposed budget emphasized social services, including education and health, and infrastructure spending owing to the government’s improving fiscal position.

Also included in the budget is the P1- billion Kalayaan Barangay programs, which provides for the construction of roads in conflict areas. The provision was supposed to be included in this year’s budget but the senators rejected it last year during the budget deliberations.

“Now that we have enough elbow room in terms of revenues, it would be wasted opportunity if we don’t approve it (Kalayaan Barangay) considering the situation now in Mindanao,” Andaya said.

He also said the proposed budget will reflect the “dramatic” reduction in debt service share from 28 to 24 percent. The difference, he said, has been allocated to social services.

Of the P1.227- trillion allocation, P11.5 billion will fund projects mentioned by the President in her State of the Nation Address, he said.

Andaya also said the Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel” allocation of lawmakers remains unchanged at P4-billion total while the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local governments was increased by 14 percent from 2007’s P183.9 million to P210.3 million.

In terms of percentage increases in allocations, the National Housing Authority posted the biggest gain of 1,847 percent or from P257 million this year to P5 billion in 2008.

Education gets much-needed boost

Meanwhile, with public school enrollment forecast to hit 17.6 million next June, the government is allocating P1 billion in next year’s national budget to buy 1.67 million classroom desks and armchairs, Andaya said.

The government will also be shopping for P700 million worth of school science equipment, he said.

Andaya said the two planned purchases will be funded by the Department of Education’s (DepEd) P145-billion proposed budget for 2008.

He had earlier announced that P260 million would be set aside for DepEd’s school computerization program next year.

The final amount for another traditional big-ticket item in the education budget, the textbook allocation, is still being determined, but the government is eyeing the purchase of a minimum 32 million textbooks for the 2008-2009 academic year, Andaya said.

As to the school furniture budget, Andaya said this would be used to buy not just armchairs and desks but blackboards, teacher chairs and tables.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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