Press Release
March 11, 2008

Angara: National budget provides strong impetus for competitive RP

"Now, we can start gearing for a competitive Filipino."

This is what Senator Edgardo Angara today said when the Php1.227-trillion national budget for 2008 was signed into law.

Chair of the Subcommittee C of the Senate Committee in Finance, Angara has redirected spending in the agencies under his subcommittee[i] towards prioritizing research and development and sustainable rural economic growth.

According to Angara , "Philippine competitiveness has steadily and consistently slipped as a result of our measly investment on education, health, research and development and basic infrastructure. We need to step up public spending in these areas, especially in R&D, as it has the highest economic pay off of all economic activities."

"All around the world, countries are racing towards innovation. Developed and developing countries alike are gearing up to introduce innovative products and services, and adopt strategies that will gear them for an increasingly competitive world," Angara said.

"To keep up with this race, we badly need to invest more in our R&D efforts and our human capital," he said.

In this light, Angara has allocated Php147.56 million of the Commission on Higher Education's Higher Education Development Fund to research and graduate scholarship grants on advanced sciences, particularly in the fields of biotechnology, neurotechnology, and Information Technology.

Angara has also expedited the titling and surveying of school sites, allotting Php5million for surveying and titling of alienable and disposable land that are used as school sites.

Rural economic development

"At the same time, we must not forget the basics. We've got to foster economic growth in the rural areas, where 40% of our population resides."

Angara has required the Department of Trade and Industry to create a special taskforce that will conduct training and promotional activities in identified economically-disadvantaged areas.

"This is the true mandate of the DTI -- to promote rural economic growth. If we focus our assistance towards developing the rural economy, then we wouldn't need so much foreign investments. This in turn will make us less hostage from the volatility of the foreign markets," said Angara .

At the same time, Angara has specified that the DTI should establish a network with the Bureau of Food and Drugs, Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Customs and other government agencies to facilitate coordinated efforts in consumer protection.

For the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, Angara has also allotted Php8.919 billion to the Department of Agrarian Reform budget for land acquisition and distribution. Angara has also specified that this amount would be used only for land acquisition and distribution.

Sustainable development

"But while we strive to use our natural resources to uplift our people from poverty, we must make sure that the kind of development we promote is sustainable," said Angara .

In this light, Angara has recommended that the protection of marine resources should be jointly conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This is to eliminate duplication of programs and make sure that government resources allotted to the conservation of the country's marine resources goes a long way.

Greening of roads shall also be a government policy thanks to Angara , who funded a seedling bank of trees and required government contracts to plant indigenous trees on both sides of the road.

"Our strife for development, however, should not reduce our pursuit of culture. This is particularly true for our main economic driver, our Overseas Filipino Workers, who hunger for a taste of Filipino culture while they are abroad" Angara said.

Angara has redirected funds for the support to Filipino communities in the designs, training of staff, and provision of cultural and educational materials in foreign countries.

"This budget for me provides strong impetus for government to get its act together, and begin working towards a competitive Philippines ," Angara said.

The Subcommittee C of the Senate Committee on Finance handles the budgets of the following government agencies: Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) system; the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Department of Tourism (DOT) and other executive and cultural agencies.

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