Makabayan: House”s P77.5-billion realignment in proposed budget welcome, but not enough

Makabayan bloc lawmakers on Monday welcomed the realignment of P77.5 billion in funds under the proposed P5.26-trillion budget for 2023, but maintained that it is not enough.

The House realigned the amount to previously unfunded and deficient critical government programs in the health, education, transport and other sectors.

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers party-list said that only three of eight Makabayan bloc’s proposed amendments were fully accommodated in the realignment move.

“The [amendment we pushed concerning additional budget for] special and Government Owned and Controlled Corporations hospitals was included; these hospitals got P500 million each for P5.1 billion,” Castro said in a news conference.

She was referring to the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, which got and additional P500 million each; and the UP-Philippine General Hospital which also got a P500-million hike as part of Makabayan’s proposed P4.5-billion budget increase for state universities and colleges.

“For SPED [Special Education] which really became a big issue, the request [for us to fund] was P560 million but the House gave P581 million, so that’s good,” Castro added.

Castro also revealed that the Makabayan bloc sought a P20.5-billion additional budget for the construction of school buildings, but the House only pegged the addition at P10.5 billion.

Likewise, Makabayan’s pitch of an additional P305 million for the Commission on Higher Education’s Tulong Dunong program was hiked to P5 billion.

The House leader, however, still lamented that other Makabayan suggestions were granted albeit at a very minuscule amount.

“For the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis, it was granted P15 billion, [an amount] which includes subsidies for unemployed individuals and other vulnerable sectors. This is a lot lower than our request which is at P124 billion,” Castro said.

Castro noted that the House also earmarked a P5 billion additional budget for allowances for healthcare and non-healthcare workers and frontliners, another amount which is a mile away from their request of P56 billion.

“Yes, we welcome these amendments, pero marami pa dapat talaga idagdag na ayuda on [but there really needs to be more aid for] MSMES [micro, small and medium enterprises] and other vulnerable sectors, including our PUV [public utility vehicle] drivers,” Castro said.

“We view these amendments in totality as a positive development, pero maliit at kulang pa rin [but they are small and not enough],” Castro added.

House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas of Gabriela party-list agreed.

“We welcome that the fund of NTF-ELCAC has been reduced to P5 billion [from P10 billion], but we still want this defunded and have the fund realigned to other social service programs,” Brosas added, referring to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, whose former officials have linked opposition figures to terrorists and communist rebels. — BM, GMA News

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