By DJ Yap, January 28 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer
Image Credit to Business Mirror
“Imperial” Metro Manila will continue to receive a bigger slice of the spending pie in the proposed 2019 national budget, while the Visayas and Mindanao will suffer cuts, according to the Bayan Muna party-list group.
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on Sunday urged Congress to increase funding for poor regions and provinces, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao.
“A look at President Duterte’s National Expenditure Program shows that he decreased the regional allocation for the Visayas from P412 billion in 2018 to P400 billion in 2019,” Zarate said in a statement.
He noted that Mindanao got the biggest cut, from P608 billion in 2018 to P585 billion.
This is a complete reversal from the President’s promise during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would pour more resources into underserved regions away from “Imperial Manila,” the congressman said.
As the allocations for the Visayas and Mindanao were cut, that for the National Capital Region (NCR), or Metro Manila, increased from P817 billion in 2018 to the proposed P834 billion in 2019.
“We are not saying that the budget for NCR be decreased, but that the budget for Visayas and Mindanao be increased,” Zarate said.
By contrast, in 2016, the last year of the Aquino presidency, the regional allocation for NCR was P445 billion or 15 percent of the national budget.
The Visayas was given P298 billion, or 10 percent of the total budget while Mindanao got P396 billion, or 13 percent, Colmenares said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives will resume on Monday their conference on the P3.8-trillion proposed budget for 2019.
The government is operating on a reenacted budget from last year as Congress failed to pass the spending bill on time.
Colmenares lamented: “President Rodrigo Duterte campaigned all over the country for federalism because he wants to ensure that funds are distributed to the provinces and the regions and not centralized in what he called ‘Imperial Manila.’”
“Yet, his 2018 National Expenditure Program showed the complete opposite,” he said.
Also on Sunday, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., head of the House contingent in the budget conference, prodded the Senate to open the discussions on the proposed P3.8-trillion budget to the public to avoid suspicions of more “pork” in the spending bill.
Andaya quit as House majority leader last week after clashing with Malacañang and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno over alleged insertions of pork allocations in the spending bill.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is seeking an additional P10 billion funding for the Department of Health under the proposed 2019 budget to improve its facilities and retain health personnel.