Press Release
January 24, 2007

Drilon, Salceda sign bicam report on 2007 budget;
benefits to education, health care sectors cited

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Franklin M. Drilon and his House counterpart Albay Rep. Joey Salceda signed this afternoon the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the proposed P1.126 trillion national budget for 2007 during ceremonies held at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

Drilon said the 2007 budget bill would finally address the shortage problem of public school teachers, the lack of public school classrooms and provide the needed funds to improve government's services in public health.

Drilon revealed the budget measure would also provide for a P10 billion calamity fund to assist in the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent typhoons. It will also grant Malacanang the authority to use unprogramed funds to pay long-overdue salary increases to government employees.

"We are proud of the work of the Bicameral Conference Committee," Drilon said as he commended Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. "We are very appreciative of the tremendous efforts of Joey Salceda in drafting this budget," Drilon said.

Drilon said items that would close the gap on the shortage of public school teachers and classrooms, the P10 billion calamity fund, and additional funding for public hospitals were among the highlights of the budget measure.

"We have also incorporated in the unprogrammed part of the budget the authority to spend public funds for the salary increase of government employees." Drilon added. "As soon as the law is enacted, the budget will provide for a bigger pay for government employees."

Drilon said the budget bill can be ratified by both chambers of Congress soon and be presented for the President's signature before Congress adjourns on February 10.

An earlier deadlock on the proposed P1.126-trillion budget was broken after Drilon and Salceda forged a compromise agreement on a contentious P4.7-billion school feeding program.

Drilon explained that the Senate and the House panels agreed that instead of distributing rice in schools as originally proposed by Malacañang , the funds would be used to build more classrooms, distribute nutritional supplements and hire more teachers.

Under the agreement, P2.163 billion would be allocated to the Department of Education's school building program. The funds would be used to build 5,400 more classrooms on top of the 12,226 new classrooms that Malacañang has already programmed.

Despite the additional construction, it is still projected that there would be a shortage of 2,961 classrooms this year, Drilon said.

Drilon said that the bicameral panel also agreed to allocate P2 billion to distribute food supplements such as milk, coco-pandesal, and vegetable-based noodles to address the malnutrition problem among some schoolchildren.

An additional P873-million budget would be allocated for the creation of more teaching positions. This would raise the DepEd's 2007 budget for new teachers to about P2 billion. Drilon said that the priority in the hiring of these new teachers would be those in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and general science.

The bicameral panel, also as part of the compromise agreement, agreed to retain the P400-million intelligence fund of the Office of the President. "We agreed to this out of respect for the time-honored tradition of Congress allowing Malacanang to determine the appropriations for the Office of the President," Drilon said.

Drilon also announced that the Bicameral Conference Committee has agreed to incorporate in the proposed budget a total of P10 billion for the rehabilitation of areas badly affected by typhoons.

The Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort (CARE) of Areas Affected by Typhoons Milenyo, Paeng, Reming and Seniang will have an P8 billion allocation under the budget. An additional P2 billion under the budget of the Department of Education will be earmarked to prioritize the repair and constructions of school buildings in the Bicol Region which were damaged by the typhoons, Drilon noted.

Under the budget bill, P500 million of the Department of Agriculture allocation will be provided for livelihood programs of farmers whose lands and crops were devastated by the typhoon, he added.

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