Press Release
January 21, 2019


I vote yes to approve the proposed 2019 national government budget on third and final hearing.

The 2019 budget passed by the Senate fully restores the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), particularly the budget of the department's Health Human Resources Deployment (HHRD) and Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP). The restoration of the DOH's budget would ensure the continuation of key programs such as cancer control and the deployment of doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives to rural areas and poor communities needed for the challenging task to provide universal health care for all.

As a health advocate, this is an important character of the 2019 budget.

Aside from this, I laud the openness of my colleagues to my proposed general and special provisions on the inclusion of the Resettlement Policy Framework and income restoration to benefit affected families. These were the result of consultations with agencies and sectors to mitigate the impact of dislocation of families affected by the Build, Build, Build Program.

Furthermore, the budget opened convergences through special provisions to improve planning of roads around and leading to high capacity transit nodes. This is to ensure that the benefits of transportation infrastructures being built will reach as many as possible.

My colleagues in the senate have been very generous and understanding in adopting my recommendations and provisions. I thank our sponsors, Mr. President, for their tireless work.

However, Mr. President, we all know that our work is not yet finished. This version of the budget will have to satisfy the standards as provided to us by the Supreme Court on the proper planning, allocation and disbursement of the nation's coffers. The process of coming to agreements would have been less difficult and less conflict-ridden, had all the rules and mechanisms for a more democratic and evidence-based planning and budgeting have been in place. Unfortunately, not only were the reforms not enough, the implementation is also weak. Mr. President, what manifestation of this weakness is more glaring than this Senate working under pressure under an already re-enacted budget.

In the past two weeks, the disposition of a P 75 B worth of projects deemed inserted in the budget has caused conflict among many. It highlighted how fragile our democracy is and how hard-won budget reforms could easily be rolled back in favor of the old system of patronage.

I trust that the Senate will have the wisdom to know the right disposition of the P 75 B. I also hope further that a reenacted budget will not happen again.

Understanding that government services cannot be further delayed, and unwilling to hold hostage our commitments to our people, including to our hardworking government workers, I vote yes.

Thank you.

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