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With less than two weeks before the year ends, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday signed the P2.265-trillion budget for 2014 sans the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
At a ceremony in Malacañang, Aquino signed the 2014 General Appropriations Act, which is 13 percent or P258.7 billion higher than the current year's budget.
Of the P2.265-trillion budget, 37.2 percent or P841.8 billion will go to social services, 26.2 percent or P593.1 billion to economic services, 16.7 percent or P377.6 billion to debt payments, 16 percent or P362.6 billion to general public services, and 4 percent or P89.5 billion to defense.
The 2014 budget is supposed to be free of PDAF, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, although budget watchdogs claimed discretionary funds were not completely removed from it.
According to the Department of Budget and Management, most of the P25.2 billion originally allocated for PDAF have been “rechanneled” to the regular programs and projects of agencies, especially those needed for responding to the recent disasters.
But in his speech after signing the bill, Aquino said the abolition of PDAF is not the only reform implemented in next year's budget.
He cited the "Performance-Informed Budgeting System," which indicates the performance target required from each agency, and the "General Appropriations Act-as-Release Document system" to hasten the implementation of programs and projects.
"Hindi na po natin hahayaang maulit pa ang mga kamalian ng nakaraan. Patuloy nating pinapatibay ang estratehiyang sa simula pa lamang ay inilatag na natin sa tuwid na daan: na sa wastong pagpopondo at sa kooperasyon ng bawat katuwang na institusyon, ay may sapat na kakayahan ang pamahalaan upang maagap na tumugon sa anumang sitwasyong kakaharapin ng bansa," he said.
The President also commended Congress for passing the budget on time for the fourth straight year.
"Dahil po dito, hindi lamang natin agarang naipapatupad ang mga prayoridad na proyekto, natatapalan din natin ang maraming butas na maaaring pagmulan ng pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan at sa kaban ng bayan," he said.
In a statement on Friday, Senate President Franklin Drilon commended the “speedy” approval of the budget, saying this will “translate to the timely activation of urgently needed services, particularly the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas.”
He specifically said the funding appropriated to agencies involved in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts “could be implemented and accessed in time by those who need them.”
The 2014 budget includes a P20-billion rehabilitation fund for areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda and P80 billion in the unprogrammed fund to serve as “standby authority and ready authorization for spending for the foreign donations and grants for victims of typhoon Yolanda.”
Drilon said Congress also allocated P13 billion in calamity funds and P4.8 billion in quick response funds.
Earlier, Congress approved a P14.6-billion supplemental budget and extended the validity of the remaining P12-billion 2013 calamity funds by another fiscal year.
“All in all, there will be about P145 billion funds made available in 2014 for the government's rehabilitation of areas damaged by the past calamities,” Drilon said.
“In crafting the budget, the Congress took into consideration the need for urgent aid to our countrymen burdened by the damages of disasters. The sizeable amount of funding is absolutely necessary to equip the government in fulfilling its responsibilities to those left helpless by the calamities,” he added. – KBK/VS, GMA News