By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

PHOTO: Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has yet to submit to Congress on Monday, August 23, the 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP), which proposes a ₱5.024 trillion expenditure ceiling and will be the “highest ever” in the country’s history. 

“Ang proposed budget para sa susunod na taon ay nasa ₱5.024 trillion, ang pinakamataas na budget sa ating kasaysayan,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday in a Palace press briefing.

Roque added that the funding proposal will be submitted to Congress two days before the constitutional deadline on 25 August.

“Sa ngayon ay finafinalize na po at piniprint ang fiscal year 2022 National Expenditure Program o NEP at target na maisumite ito sa Kongreso sa Lunes, August 23, 2021,” he added.

The proposed national budget is equivalent to 22.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and about 11.5 percent higher than the ₱4.5 trillion budget in 2021. 

These funds will be dedicated for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, procurement of medical equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic response and implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, among others. 

Roque reiterated that the social services sector, which includes health-related services and education-related programs, will receive the highest allocation of the proposed budget at 38.2% of the proposed budget, or ₱1.922 trillion.

Meanwhile, the economic sector will receive 29.3% of the proposed budget or ₱1.474 trillion for the administration’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

Roque added that the general public services sector will get ₱862.7 billion, the defense sector will get ₱224.4 billion, and the debt burden will get ₱541.3 billion. 

The debt burden agencies will have 10.8% of the proposed budget at ₱541.3 billion and the defense sector will be given 4.5%, or ₱224.4 billion.

The interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) has already given the thumbs up for the proposed budget and the following agencies will the following slices:

• Education sector (Department of Education, State Universities and Colleges, Commission on Higher Education) – ₱773.6 billion
• Department of Public Works and Highways – ₱686.1 billion
•Department of the Interior and Local Government – ₱250.4 billion
• Department of Health – ₱242 billion
• Department of National Defense – ₱222 billion
• Department of Social Welfare and Development – ₱191.4 billion
• Department of Transportation – ₱151.3 billion
• Department of Agriculture and National Irrigation Administration – ₱103.5 billion
• Department of Labor and Employment – ₱44.9 billion

Ahead of its submission to Congress and prior to his resignation from his post due to health reasons, former Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, said that the proposed ₱5-trillion national budget for 2022 aims to sustain the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response programs.

Avisado claimed the expenditure ceiling of 2022 includes the procurement of COVID-19 testing kits, hiring of medical frontliners, establishment of the Virology Institute of the Philippines, and the continuous implementation of health programs under the Universal Health Care law.

To ensure that services of the DBM remained unhampered, Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to serve as the officer-in-charge during Avisado’s absence.

However, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilón has expressed concern over the resignation of Avisado, citing the “President’s 2022 budget [has] not been submitted 20 days after the SONA, which is behind schedule” if compared with prior years.

Drilón, the Senate’s chief fiscalizer, further exclaimed that it will give Congress “very little time to scrutinize,” given the pandemic and the fact that the campaign period starts shortly. 

Under the 1987 Constitution, the executive department is mandated to submit the proposed budget to the Congress for scrutiny and approval within 30 days from the opening of its regular session.