SONA 2017 | Duterte submits P3.7-T national budget for 2018 to Congress

July 24, 2017 - 6:39 PM
steel bars, PNA photo
Steel bars rise from construction sites in Metro Manila in July 2017 PNA file photo.

MANILA – In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte implored Congress to pass the comprehensive tax reform measure to help fund the P3.767-trillion budget for 2018, which he submitted to Congress.

“The proposed 2018 budget which I am submitting today . . . will be for the poor and the vulnerable,” he said, adding that the benefits of the tax reform package will be for them.

The House of Representatives has approved the bill on third and final reading, but the Senate has yet to approve it at the committee level.

In his 37-page budget message, Duterte said the country needs an “activist budget” to fulfill the longing of the people. He also said his budget addresses the people’s aspirations for “buhay na matatag, maginhawa at panatag.”

Duterte took the rare tack of submitting the annual budget during the SONA, which was earlier done by President Fidel Ramos. The proposed budget were submitted by Duterte’s other predecessors after the SONA.

The proposed Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) bill will impose new taxes on fuel products and automobiles that is expected to raise P87.8 billion, and remove the value added tax exemptions on certain products and services to generate an additional P81 billion.

The government also expects to earn an extra P47 billion from the P10 per liter levy on sugar sweetened beverages.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House of Representatives targets to approve it on third and final reading by October.

Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairperson of the House appropriations committee, said the proposed budget was 12.4 percent higher than the current budget.

As much as P1.097 trillion has been allocated for the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

Biggest outlay for education

Education will continue to receive the biggest appropriation at P691-billion, or P41.7-billion more than the 2017 budget. The bulk of the appropriation will go to the construction of 47,000 classrooms; repair and rehabilitation of 18,000 classrooms; procurement of 84,781 school seats; and creation of 81,100 teaching positions.

For 2018, the JobStart Philippines Program will provide school-to-work transition assistance skills to 3,200 youth beneficiaries. For scholarship, the 2018 budget has a P7.5 billion allocation to fund 36,977 beneficiaries.

Based on his budget message, Duterte was seeking a 10.3-percent increase in the budget for Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network — from P21.4 billion in 2017 to P23.6 billion in 2018.

The Duterte administration was also proposing a P6.6-billion budget for the Mindanao Railway Project Phase I which will cut down travel time from Davao City to Surigao and Cagayan de Oro from eight to two hours. Once completed, it is expected to accommodate around 120,000 passengers a day in the opening year, and will also provide a section linking Davao City to Tagum City in Davao del Norte and Digos City in Davao del Sur.

A law enforcement budget of P131.5 billion was proposed for 2018, or 17.6 percent higher than the 2017 allocation of P111.8 billion. Some P1.4 billion of this amount will be spent for the hiring of 10,000 new Police Officer 1 recruits to expand the current count of around 194,410 police officers, increase police visibility, and narrow the gap between the ideal police to population ratio of 1:500, from the current ratio of 1:551.

Another P900 million, meanwhile, will fund Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the Administration’s campaign flagship program against illegal drugs.