MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is going to submit the proposed 2018 national budget to Congress on July 24, the day he delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Friday.
The Palace official said this is the first time in history that a President submits the budget on the day of the SONA itself.
“Why are we doing this? So we can have an early start for 2018. So the 2018 proposed national budget, which we proposed and the President approved, has a total of PHP3.767 trillion, with the biggest allocation going to education and infrastructure development,” he said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing at the Palace.
The proposed budget for next year is 12.4 percent higher than the PHP3.35 trillion budget for 2017 and represents 21.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
“Now this budget is consistent with President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program to usher in the Golden Age of Infrastructure in the Philippines and his desire to develop the Filipino youth into an agile, competent workforce for the future,” Diokno said.
Having said that, the Budget official expressed confidence that tax reform package bill pending in Congress would be approved before the end of the year.
Revenues generated from the Comprehensive Tax Reform Package bill is among the major sources of funds for the Build, Build, Build program.
The tax bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and is now pending at the Senate.
“So it’s a priority measure and I think that’s one of the content of the President’s SONA, to appeal to the Senate to approve this bill because this is not only, this is not only fair, I think we need it if you want to be competitive and if you want to give 99 percent of Filipinos a break because this tax program that, the tax system that we have has not been adjusted since the Ramos years,” Diokno said.
“I think it will be approved,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Budget chief said that part of the 2018 budget is a PHP10-billion allocation for the rehabilitation of Marawi.
Although President Duterte has said that PHP20 billion would be earmarked for the eventual rehabilitation of the war-torn city in Mindanao, Diokno clarified that the rehabilitation process is a multi-year undertaking.
“The rebuilding of Marawi will be a multi-year task. It cannot be done in a few months or one year. So with that, we are talking of a multi-year effort,” he said.
He said the DBM had already identified around PHP5 billion from the 2017 budget for the Marawi rehabilitation fund, bringing the total available fund to PHP15 billion by 2018.
“Actually, I expect it to be more than PHP20 billion. So right now, we’re setting aside PHP5 billion for this year, for the next five months. And then maybe PHP10 billion next year, it could be more. Or in 2019, it could be a higher amount,” Diokno said.
He added that the allocated funds exclude the foreign aids. PNA-northboundasia.com