The Senate and the House of Representatives both agreed to finally approve the proposed national spending program for 2016 amounting to P3.002 trillion before their annual Christmas break this week.
House Bill 6132, the reconciled version of the General Appropriations Bill for 2016, includes the following: an increase of P1.2 billion in the budget for indigent senior citizens; a hike in the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) by P2.7 billion to cover their capital outlays; the retention of veterans' pension totaling P4.7 billion; and an augmentation of P7 billion to fully fund the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) of 2015 for its first tranche of implementation next year.
The bicameral conference committee, which reconciled the amendments introduced by the two chambers to the bill, agreed on the final shape of next year’s budget in a meeting last Monday, Dec. 7.
If the Congress approves the measure before Dec. 19, President Aquino would be able to sign it into law before the yearend. The Congress adjourns on Dec. 19 and resumes session on Jan. 18 next year.
Amendments to HB 6132 also include an increase in the budget of the Department of Education from its original appropriation of P411.482 billion to P411.905 billion.
The DepEd’s budget increase covers P50 million for the preservation of Gabaldon school buildings, which are considered as National Heritage structures; funds for Special Education for persons with disability; Education and Sustainable Development and teachers training; the Philippine High School for the Arts’ supplemental allocation of P25.64 million for capital outlay; an additional amount for the University of the Philippines for the construction of buildings and gyms, and support to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Additional funds were also provided for the modernization of the Philippine Normal University. Other SUCs would also receive additional funding which will be used for the repair and construction of academic buildings, equipment and the Tulong Dunong Program of the Commission on Higher Education.
The bicameral conference committee also raised the budget of the Department of Energy from P775.876 million to P795.440 million to cover personnel services for the Renewal Energy and Management Bureau, legal services and compliance services.
Another agency, the Department of Science and Technology, also received a budget hike—from P17.949 billion to P18.029 billion.
Meanwhile, the budget for government corporations was adjusted from P113.351 billion to P103.453 billion, and the budget for the Department of Transportation and Communications from P43.453 billion to P42.680 billion.