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Infra, human capital still budget priorities

Investments in infrastructure and human capital development remain the government’s top priorities, the Budget department said on Friday, with public works and education to given the highest allocations under the proposed P3.757-trillion outlay for next year.

“We are sticking to our plan of focusing on ‘Build Build Build’ and social services,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.

“These are the priorities we identified as early as the beginning of our term we will see to it that investments on these sectors are sustained,” he added.

The Budget department said that higher investments in infrastructure would support economic growth — targeted to hit 7-8 percent — by creating jobs and spurring opportunities in the countryside.

Spending on education, healthcare and social protection, meanwhile, will mold the country’s young population into a workforce capable of sustaining the country’s growth momentum, it added.

The education outlay, comprising the budgets of the Department of Education, state universities and colleges, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, will account for the biggest chunk of next year’s budget.

Cash appropriations for education total P659.3 billion, up P72.2 billion or 12.3 percent compared to this year.

Consistent with “Build Build Build,” meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways will be given P555.7 billion, P225.5 billion or 68.3 percent more from 2018.

The Department of Interior and Local Government is third with an allocation of P225.6 billion, higher by P53.3 billion or 30.9 percent, that will be used to strengthen local governance and support public safety initiatives.

The Department of National Defense (DND) follows with a budget of P183.4 billion, an increase of P46.9 billion or 34.4 percent.

Social welfare, covering the budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the unconditional cash transfers under the Land Bank of the Philippines, is fifth with an allocation of P173.3 billion, higher by P8.9 billion or 5.4 percent.

Health, which combines the budgets of the Department of Health and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. has an allocation of P141.4 billion.

The DBM explained that the budget is 8.9 percent lower than this year’s allocation because of a significant cut in the Health Facilities Enhancement Program to give way to fast-moving and implementation-ready projects.

The Department of Transportation has the seventh-highest allocation with a budget of P76.1 billion, higher by P35.9 billion or 89.3 percent to address the need for efficient and comfortable mass transport systems all over the country.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Department of Agriculture with P49.8 billion, the judiciary with P37.3 billion, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with P32.3 billion.

The proposed 2019 budget is set to be submitted to Congress on July 23, the same day that President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his third State of the Nation Address.

The P3.757-trillion national budget will be the government’s first cash-based budget, which officials have said reflects the urgent need to speed up public service delivery.

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