Press Release
September 11, 2006

Drilon confident of early Senate approval of supplemental budget

Senate Finance Committee chief Sen. Franklin Drilon today expressed confidence that the proposed supplemental budget for this year in the total amount of P46.9 billion will "face smooth sailing and will not be hampered by protracted debates" on the Senate floor, noting that most of the items in the measure have been approved by the senators three months before.

"The passage of this bill is very urgent," Drilon said in his sponsorship speech delivered this afternoon. "The Fiscal Year 2005 General Appropriations Act, as reenacted, does not cover certain crucial expenditures that have to be funded this year."

"The necessity for the immediate approval of this bill lies in the fact that under consideration here are urgent or mandatory expenditures that the country cannot afford to forego this year, hence the need for a supplemental appropriation that will authorize these expenditures, Drilon said.

"A majority of these expenditures were included in the 2006 General Appropriations Bill which this chamber had passed on final reading just three months ago," said Drilon. "Extensive and incisive debates were already held in this hall in the approval of these appropriations."

The proposed supplemental budget will provide the following allocations, Drilon said: Department of Agrarian Reform, P4.593 billion; Department of Education, P9.581 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P1.375 billion; Department of Science and Technology, P700 Million; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P269.5 Million; Department of Transportation and Communications, P1.608 Billion; Commission on Elections, P730.236 Million; Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, P4.923 Billion; Allocation to Local Government Units, P1.820 Billion; Pension and Gratuity Fund, P4.865 Billion; Internal Revenue Allotment (ALGU), P14.844 Billion; and Calamity Fund, P 1.117 Billion.

In a press conference last week, Drilon, who is Liberal Party president, said he expected the Senate to "fast track" the approval of the 2006 supplemental budget as requested by Malacañang , considering that there were only three months left before the end of the year.

He stressed most of the items included in the supplemental budget were already approved during the Senate deliberation on the 2006 regular budget except for the new items such as those needed for the cleanup of the Guimaras oil spill, the evacuation of residents near Mayor Volcano in the event of an eruption and the repatriation of Filipino workers in Lebanon.

"Certain expenditures were programmed for six months from July to December. We have revised such appropriations like hiring of additional personnel that do not need to be funded for six months and reduced the allocation to only three months from October to December."

The Finance committee reports support the proposed P46.9 billion supplemental appropriations. However, realignments of the allocation within the departments were done in order to be realistic, Drilon said.

The proposed P500 million standby fund for the repatriation of Filipino workers in Lebanon was slashed to P50 million, he noted. This will be added to the P350 million that is already in the coffers of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. This means a total of P400 million will be appropriated for emergency repatriation of OFWs, Drilon said.

"A ceasefire in Lebanon is now in effect and has led to the cessation of hostilities," Drilon pointed out. "We do not see the need to appropriate the entire amount of P500 million for such activity as originally recommended by the Department of Budget and Management."

Drilon said the finance committee proposed that the bulk of the standby fund be channeled for the clean-up of the Guimaras oil spill. "We seek to allocate a total of P400 million for this purpose in addition to that proposed under House Bill No. 5668 for a total of P2 billion," he said.

"My colleagues, one cannot overemphasize the need to invest funds to avert what could be an environmental catastrophe in Guimaras," Drilon said in his privilege speech.

"Billed as the worst oil spill in Philippine maritime history, the sunken MT Solar 1 tanker is said to contain 1.8 million liters more of bunker fuel that could spell more disaster for the once pristine waters, caves and coves of Guimaras and its neighboring islands. Clearly, the need for concerted action not only by the stakeholders but by the whole nation is called for," Drilon said.

The committee also recommends an appropriation for the evacuation of the Mayon Volcano victims and livelihood programs for the family affected by the Guimaras oil spill.

Drilon also noted that the biggest share of the proposed supplemental budget, amounting to P14.844 billion, has been allocated for the increase of the Internal Revenue (IRA) of local officials.

"Moreover, Section 3 of this bill provides that the IRA shall henceforth be automatically appropriated to ensure that the local government units are certain to timely receive their just share in the national internal revenue taxes," Drilon said.

The finance committee also proposed that P250 million of the P1 billion proposed allocation for the School Building Program be made available to the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. and other NGOs with proven capability and track record in the construction of the public school buildings.

"This is to ensure the judicious use of funds and to encourage the participation of non-government organizations in the School Building Program," Drilon said.

The budget of the Department of Transportation and Communications was reduced by P2 billion with the deletion of the equity-rental fee. Also, as the Professional Regulation Commission already ruled out the retake of the nursing board examination, the P14 million proposed budget for the PRC was cut.

The P3.3-billion allocation corresponding to the unpaid principal that the national government owes to the Government Service Insurance System was approved by the committee.

"This budget will enable the GSIS to re-adjust the benefits of all retirees whose retirement and other benefits were reduced by reason of such deficiency in the government's counterpart contributions," Drilon said. "We must emphasize that this deficiency in premium contribution is a source of continuing frustration and disappointment among our thousands of teachers."

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