Senator Sonny Angara on Friday assured that he will be working with his colleagues to “rectify” the proposed budgets for education and health in the final version of the PHP5.768 trillion 2024 national budget.
He made the assurance following concerns raised by several senators over the decrease in the proposed 2024 budget for the Department of Health and the Department of Education as he vowed to look into it during the upcoming budget deliberations.
In a statement, Angara, who is chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, said his experience going over the last four General Appropriations Acts (GAA) has shown consistent support for the education and health sectors from Congress, and the budgets for these sectors “usually go up by the time we have gone through the budget process in the House and Senate.”
He cited the case of specialty hospitals operated by the Department of Health, namely the Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care.
Under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) proposed by the Executive branch, these specialty hospitals were only allotted PHP4.9 billion.
But after undergoing deliberations by Congress, the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA) provided almost PHP7 billion for specialty hospitals, an increase of PHP2 billion from the proposed 2023 NEP.
“The same was true for the budget of the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (MAIP), which has consistently been hiked by Congress,” Angara said.
He noted that the 2023 NEP only contained PHP22.39 billion for the MAIP, but “through the interventions of the members of Congress,” the program ended up with the final amount of PHP32.6 billion.
In the 2024 NEP, the MAIP was provided with a proposed budget of PHP22.3 billion, down from the PHP32.6 billion under the 2023 GAA.
“The increases in the budgets of the specialty hospitals, the MAIP and the health sector in general would benefit millions of Filipinos, especially the poor, for their medical and health care requirements. The budget for MAIP has increased annually from PHP 9.4 billion in 2019 to PHP10.5 billion in 2020, PHP17 billion in 2021, PHP21.4 billion in 2022, and PHP32.6 billion in 2023. We expect a similar increase in the program in the final version of the 2024 budget,” Angara said.
In the case of education, Angara cited the proposed budgets for the state universities and colleges, including the University of the Philippines system.
“For three straight years we have seen increases in the budgets of the SUCs. From PHP73.7 billion in 2020, this went up to PHP85.9 billion in 2021, PHP104.17 billion in 2022 and PHP107 billion in 2023. Similar to the health sector, we also expect increases in the budgets of the SUCs and UP once Congress is done deliberating on the 2024 NEP,” Angara said.
Angara said he also sees no reason for concern with regard to the reduction in the proposed 2024 budget of the University of the Philippines system in the NEP because “this will be rectified and increased by the time December comes and we’ve been through the budgetary process.” (PNA)