Press Release
August 9, 2021

Drilon calls for higher budget for social services in 2022 nat'l budget, says funds for security sector should be allocated for ayuda

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon called for an increase of funding for the social services sector in the to-be-submitted National Expenditures Program (NEP) for 2022 and rechanneling of the security sector funds to pandemic response such as the provision for the ayuda or social amelioration program.

The Senate chief fiscalizer said "the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, growing budget deficit and skyrocketing national debt should make the government reconsider its defense spending for 2022, including the allocation for its heavily-criticized anti-insurgency funds."

Starting 2018, Drilon pointed out, the social services sector has suffered a negative growth - from a 3 percent growth in 2017 to -2.4 in 2018, -0.3 in 2019, -1.1 in 2020. It slightly increased by only 0.5% in 2021. In contrast, except in 2019 when it decreased by -1%, the share of the defense sector is on an upward trend. It increased by 0.2% in 2018, 0.4% in 2020 and 0.2% in 2021, when the country is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Drilon expressed dismay at the negative growth in the social services sector budget while the share of the defense sector has continuously increased throughout the Duterte administration.

"It cannot be the norm again next year, if we want to fast-track our economic recovery and lift our people out of poverty, hunger and unemployment," Drilon said on Monday.

"Because of our limited resources, the government needs to downsize its defense spending for next year in favor of the much-needed ayuda and other social and health services," he stressed.

"Even if the national budget kept growing over the years, the percent share of social services to the national budget didn't grow along with it and has in fact suffered decreases," Drilon observed.

Drilon said the extraordinarily large funds that will be allotted to the security sector in 2022 should instead be redirected or given to social services sector like health, education and labor.

He cited, for instance, the budget for its anti-insurgency fund of P19.2 billion this. The budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which are reported could increase anywhere between P30 billion to P40 billion, he added.

While NTF-ELCAC has been assured of funds, there's no sign that the government will include ayuda in its 2022 proposed national budget. There is no allocation for ayuda in the 2021 General Appropriations Act. The government therefore was forced to scrimp and get ayuda funding from other worthy projects.

Amid the controversies involving NTF-ELCAC, especially the red-tagging done by its officials, it can be recalled that several senators, including Drilon, had previously called for the defunding of NTF-ELCAC in 2022.

"We must increase the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Health to beef up our COVID-19 spending. We need to include a substantial amount of funds for ayuda in the next year's budget and vaccine procurement," Drilon said.

He also urged for an additional budget for the Department of Labor and Employment to address unemployment and the Department of Education to strengthen our education system.

"We need to include a substantial amount of funds for vaccine procurement, ayuda specifically for poor households, workers, PUV drivers, and students struggling with distance learning, and support for MSMEs in next year's budget," Drilon stressed.

"I hope the Department of Budget and Management has allocated funds for ayuda and vaccine procurement in the to-be-submitted National Expenditure Program (NEP). The 2022 budget should not be a repeat of the 2021 budget where there's no sufficient funds for pandemic response and recovery programs including ayuda and vaccine-procurement," he added.

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