OP, OVP 2018 budgets get Senate approval

MANILA -- A Senate panel on Tuesday approved the proposed 2018 budgets of the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) which amounts to PHP6.031 billion and PHP443 million, respectively.

During the budget hearing, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea presented the OP's budget of PHP6.031 billion, which is around 70 percent lower than the budget this year, PHP20.170 billion.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, pointed out that the budget this year is significantly higher than the budget for next year due to the Philippine hosting of ASEAN meetings.

Legarda barely asked any questions and was ready to approve the budget for the Office of the President, however, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV showed up to ask a few questions -- particularly on allocation for the OP's agencies.

Trillanes was referring to the following agencies: Anti-Terrorism Council-Program Management Center, National Coast Watch Council, Office of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, Office of the Special Envoy for Transnational Crime, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, and Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces.

He particularly wanted to know whether the OP had complied with its commitment to allocate intelligence funds for the agencies.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that allocation for the agencies will be plotted by the end of the year. Trillanes, however, wanted the allocations to be more specific.

We have major security situations in the country and we cannot have these offices begging for intelligence funds, Trillanes, former navy officer, told the Office of the President urging them to submit allocations for its six offices.

Medialdea, meanwhile, committed anew to comply with Trillanes' request.

In an interview with reporters, Trillanes said that he wanted to see the allocation because the funding would allow agencies to be proactive in addressing national security issues such as the conflict in Marawi City, issues on the West Philippine Sea, and the shipment of illegal goods among others.

The senator pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism could have been passive in preventing and addressing the Marawi crisis due to not being given enough funds.

I want them to have funds so that the next time there are lapses, we know who to put the blame on, we know who to castigate. If you give them funds they (agencies) can be more proactive, then we can demand accountability, he said. I know these people, if you give them resources, they'll do their jobs.

After Trillanes' questioning, Legarda finally approved the OP's budget and tackle the OVP's budget.

Vice President Leni Robredo presented the 2018 proposed budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) of PHP443 million, which is 3.58 percent higher than the budget this year at PHP428 million.

Robredo expressed hope that the OVP's increased budget would help her office fulfill its commitment to uplift the lives of the poor by supporting the administration's anti-poverty efforts.

She said that her office had three desired outcomes under her term -- improved health and nutrition of mothers and children, improved income for indigent families, improved access to inclusive and equitable education

The Vice President also lamented how bureaucratic red tape prevented specific government agencies from providing necessary assistance.

The government does not respond as quickly as you want it too. Mas madaling humingi sa private kesa sa gobyerno (It's easier to ask help from the private sector than the government), Robredo said.

Senators Legarda and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, meanwhile, vowed to help Robredo's office by raising these issues to concerned government agencies.

Source: Philippine News Agency