President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, 6 January, signed into law the 2020 General Appropriations Act or P4.1 trillion national budget for this year.
In his speech during the signing of the national budget at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang Palace, Duterte said the 2020 national budget represents almost 20 percent of the country’s projected gross domestic product (GDP) for this year and will support their vision of a more peaceful and progressive Philippines.
“As in previous years, we will continue to allocate a great portion of our national budget for infrastructure development and social services – programs that will directly touch the lives of our people,” the President said.
“We will spend  percent of the budget to fund programs on education, healthcare, housing and social welfare,” he added.
To further boost the thriving economy, the President said government will likewise invest 29 percent of the budget in infrastructure, tourism, trade, job generation, and agriculture. Meanwhile, 11 percent of the budget will be used for debt servicing, with the ultimate goal of bringing down government debt to just 39 percent of the GDP by 2022.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank Congress for supporting this administration’s sound fiscal policies through the continued adoption of the Cash Budgeting System and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program,” Duterte said.
“I likewise recognize the invaluable contribution of the men and women of the Department of Budget and Management under the leadership of Secretary Wende Avisado for their efforts in crafting this year’s budget.”
“As we look forward to another productive year for this administration, I ask Congress and our civil society partners, as well as my fellow civil servants in the executive department, to remain driven towards our collective goal of providing a more comfortable life for our people. Together, let us ensure that every peso in the budget will never be used to support the selfish greed of the few, but spent exclusively for the benefit and service of Filipino taxpayers,” he said.
Among the government officials present during the budget signing were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nogales, lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives, members of the Cabinet, and diplomats.
Carrying the theme “Continuing the journey to a more peaceful and progressive Philippines”, the FY 2020 national budget will build upon the gains made over the first three and a half years of Duterte’s Administration by continuing the thrust for genuine change, inclusive growth, and equitable development to build a better Philippines.
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the P4.1 trillion budget, which is equivalent to 19.5 percent of projected GDP, is the country’s largest to date, larger by 12 percent than the 2019 budget. It will sustain the critical infrastructure, human capital development, and peace and order initiatives of the Administration to support socio-economic growth.
The DBM said both chambers of Congress sustained the budgetary priorities of the President when they passed the 2020 national budget last December as shown by the sectoral breakdown of the budget.
The social services sector accounts for the largest bulk of the budget at P1.495 trillion, or 36.5 percent of the national budget, to fund human capital development programs in education, health, and social protection. Such programs include the Universal Access for Quality Tertiary Education (P39 billion), the Basic Education Facilities Program (P36 billion), the Universal Health Care Program (P172.4 billion), the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (P108.8 billion), and the Unconditional Cash Transfer Program (P36.5 billion).
Meanwhile, the P1.2 trillion is allotted for economic services, which corresponds to 29.3 percent of the national budget. This is a hefty increase of 23.7 percent over the 2019 budget for the sector. For infrastructure development, in particular, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) will receive significantly higher allotments in 2020 to accelerate the Administration’s infrastructure program, taking P581.7 billion (25 percent growth) and P100.6 billion (45 percent growth), respectively, for 2020.
Of these amounts, the DPWH will use P203.8 billion for its Network Development Program, Asset Preservation Program, and Bridge Program, while the DoTr will use P63.5 billion to develop the country’s rail, air and sea transportation infrastructure. These programs will enhance the state of physical infrastructure to facilitate the flow of goods, services, and people in all areas of the country.
The 2020 national budget also includes significant allocations to enhance peace and order in the country. The Department of National Defense (DND) will receive P192.1 billion, while the Philippine National Police (PNP) will receive P187.3 billion. Moreover, some P70.6 billion will be allocated for the operational and developmental needs of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Consistent with the priorities of the Administration, the Department of Education, state universities and colleges, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority collectively will receive the largest portion of the 2020 budget to the tune of P692.6 billion followed by the DPWH at P581.7 billion.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will receive P241.6 billion, of which 78 percent will go to the PNP. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will also receive an increase in its budget, taking P200.5 billion or 12.7 percent more year-on-year.
The DND will take the fifth largest portion of the national budget at P192.1 billion. This is followed by the Department of Health (DoH) with a budget of P175.9 billion, the DoTr with P100.6 billion, and the Department of Agriculture (DA) with P64.7 billion. The DA budget includes the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund and the P3 billion Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers.
The Passage of the FY 2020 General Appropriations Bill Congress was led by House Committee on Appropriations Chairperson Representative Isidro T. Ungab and Senate Committee on Finance Chairperson Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara.
Government to maximize budget
Meanwhile, Nograles said the Executive Department plans to “properly, prudently, and efficiently” spend the record-setting P4.1 trillion-peso 2020 national budget that President Duterte signed on the first working Monday of the year.
“We thank the members of Congress for working overtime to expedite the passage of the General Appropriations Act. This was a team effort, and we commend the leadership of both houses for helping us start the year right,” said the former legislator.
According to Nograles, former chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, “the timely passage of the budget will allow us to avoid issues like underspending and ensure that priority programs and projects are properly funded and implemented.”
Despite the 2019 budget being signed in mid-April, government was able to accelerate spending, with the Department of Budget and Management reporting that it had released 3.622 trillion pesos, or 98.9% of the 3.662 trillion-peso fiscal year 2019 obligation program, by the end of November 2019.
“The budget is the lifeblood of government, and all department heads recognize that the President wants them to maximize the financial resources allocated to them,” said the Palace official.
“The members of the Cabinet are on the same page when it comes to government funds. These are to be used––not abused––for the benefit of our countrymen. Babantayan ng maigi yan para magamit ng tama at maayos.”