Source: Manila Bulletin, 4 January 2012

By Chino S. Leyco

MANILA, Philippines — The national government has provided the biggest funding support under this year’s budget to poverty reduction and other social services, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

In a statement, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad said that the higher allocation for these social services is aimed at helping reduce poverty incidence to 16.6 percent and to meet key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Abad said P568.6 billion or about 32 percent of the total P1.816-trillion budget has been allocated to the social services sector – the biggest share among all other sectors funded by the national expenditure plan.

“This Administration is investing in programs, activities and projects that have direct, immediate and substantial impact in empowering the poor. Our focus is to provide life vests to those drowning in poverty through targeted social protection packages, and to significantly invest in their education and healthcare,” Abad said.

He also said that the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) increased to P48.9 billion in 2012 from P34.3 this year, a growth rate increase of 42.57 percent. This is particularly due to the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to cover three million indigent households from the 2.3 million in 2011.

With its budget, the DSWD will also implement other social protection packages such as social pension of P500 each for more than 198,000 senior citizens (P1.2 billion) and supplemental feeding for 1.6 million children in daycare centers (P2.9 billion).

The budget for the Department of Education (DepEd) increased by 15.2 percent to P238.8 billion in 2012 from this year’s P207.3 billion, the largest budgetary increase of the department in more than a decade.

In particular, the Basic Educational Facilities Fund will increase by 54.28 percent P17.4 billion from P11.291 billion, while the School Building Program will again be provided with P1 billion, to construct more than 45,00 additional classrooms, 2.53 million seats, and more than 25,000 water and sanitation facilities. To meet these steep targets, DepEd will enter into public private partnerships (PPPs) for classroom construction.

Others to be funded by the DepEd’s budget are: 13,000 additional teaching positions; a million students covered by the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education or GASTPE program; and 36 million textbooks and teaching manuals. Universal Kindergarten will also be supported with a P2.4-billion allocation.

Meanwhile, the budget of the Department of Health (DoH) increased by 34 percent to P44.4 billion from this year’s P33.2 billion. To support Universal Health Care, this budget provides P12 billion — much higher than P3.5 billion in 2011 — for National Health Insurance Program premium subsidies of 5.2 million indigent households.

Furthermore, the budget for the Doctors to the Barrios Program will increase 13 times to P1.742 billion from P123 million this year, to deploy 200 doctors, 12,000 nurses and 1,021 midwives to regional health units, barangay health stations and hospitals nationwide.