Press Release
January 2, 2006

Palace must be careful in spending P35 B savings -- Recto

Warning that it should not act like a little boy let loose inside a candy store, Malacañang was told to exercise prudence in spending the P35 billion government saved last year when it cut costs and boosted tax collection. 

While he recognized President Arroyo s prerogative under budget laws to use savings to augment government programs, Sen. Ralph Recto said she should avoid the impression that her government is splurging public funds.

One way of achieving this, Recto said, is for the government to use the HEART or health, education, agriculture, roads, technology guideline in the use of said savings.

Recto had earlier criticized the Palace-drafted P1.05 trillion proposed 2006 budget as lacking of HEART and called on his colleagues to a bipartisan effort to recast the budget using the said formula.

With the national government operating on the 2005 national budget which shall be in force until the new budget is signed, Recto cautioned President Arroyo against diverting from the spending programs authorized in the 2005 General Appropriations Act.

The use of savings should be guided by the reenacted 2005 budget. While some items may change, the framework will still be provided by the 2005 GAA because that is the governing law, he said.

Recto said the 2005 national budget has authorized funds for many HEART projects so it would do well for Malacañang to use this as the template for it would meet both the requirements of the law and needs of the public.

Such balancing, he said, is needed, because while public projects shouldnt be placed in suspended animation until Congress has passed the new budget neither should laws be ditched for expediency.

Should we suspend health care, public education and police patrols because Congress hasnt finished the budget yet? Government cant go on a vacation because the budget is still in the works, he said.

Prompted by reports that the economys lower-than-expected performance last year was due in part to anemic government spending, Malacañang announced last week that P35 billion in government savings would be used in the first quarter to pump prime the economy.

Earlier, Recto has criticized the 2006 budget as not pulsating with hope for our people who look up to it as a tool for making life easier for them and as a testament that taxes they pay indeed work for them.

While he acknowledged the nominal increase in the Palace-drafted measure for health, education, agriculture, roads and technology, the increments are however not commensurate with the hike in taxes and the shortages that must be wiped out in each of the sectors.

If youre looking at dramatic leaps in agency budgets, or new major-ticket items, like new roads, you cant see them there, he said.

Do you know that the 2006 budget does not provide for the purchase of single police car nor the building of a new public hospital ward when crime and hospital admissions are on the rise? he said.

For P250 million, Philippine General Hospital can have modern equipment and yet there is no provision for their purchase in the budget, Recto lamented.

Recto said the Department of Education said it would need P10 billion more to wipe out shortages in classrooms, teachers and books . With the revenues were collecting, cant we not meet at least 50 percent of their request?

The DoH is asking a measly P5 million for Vitamin A capsules for high-risk pregnant mothers, P40 million for Vitamin A capsules to prevent blindness among children, P5 million for anti-rabies shots, and are we that helpless that we cant accede to these?

Recto said agriculture spending needs to be augmented especially on irrigation and postharvest facilities, the latter because were losing 18 percent, or more than our annual rice import volume, of our palay yield to lack of dryers and storage areas.

Recto said the country has one of the lowest infrastructure spending, a major reason why investors are shying away from us.

He said technology expenditures must also be adjusted up because we need modern technology to fight crime, protect our territory, and teach our kids sciences.

We can buy only 17,000 computers for our 18 million public school students next year. Cant we not increase this? Can we not send a decent Air Force plane in our skies?

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