Senate panel approves OP’s P8.1B proposed 2022 budget

The Senate Committee on Finance on Wednesday, 22 September approved the P8.1 billion proposed 2022 budget of the Office of The President (OP).

Senate Committee on Finance chair Senator Sonny Angara okayed the OP’s budget as well as the P751 million proposed allocation of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) after almost an hour — longer than the usual 30 minutes-long deliberations for the agencies.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who headed the PMS prior to his stint at the chamber, supported the approval of the two budgets as he enumerated the achievements of the Duterte administration during the last fiscal year.

“I express my full support to the proposed budgets of the OP and PMS. I am confident that these offices exercise prudence in the use of funds given to them,” Go said.

“The budget of the OP is crucial not only in the implementation of presidential programs, but also in national security management that helps in the maintenance of peace and order in the country. The budget of the PMS is also crucial, since the agency assists the President in the performance of this mandate,” Go added.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri also rallied for the passage of the budget of the said agencies.

“I’ve always been a supporter of the concept of the OP. As a matter of fact, we try to make it as painless and as quick as possible the discussion of the OP,” he said.

The proposed budget of OP for 2022 tallied at P8,186,079– slightly lower than its 2021 budget of P8,238,691.

Of the total allocation, OP will allocate P5.14B to the Presidential Oversight Program, P84 million to the Presidential Advisory Program, P85 million to the Presidential Legal and Legislative Services Program and P916 million to the Presidential Executive Staff Services Program.

During the hearing, senators also raised concern on the status of programs under ‘For Later Release’ (FLR) in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Senator Nancy Binay has asked the OP to delay the release of fundings for P100 billion worth of projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways for 2021 and the inclusion of the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act in the items under FLR.

“We allocated funding for this last year as part of the Build, Build, Build program that’s why it is surprising that it will be October in a few days and there’s this issue of P100 billion worth of projects that we know can generate a lot of jobs that we badly need,” the senator said. “What is our plan? Are they planning to release this?”

Acting Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong explained that FLR is limited to new budgetary items that are not included in the National Expenditure Program and are outside the priorities of the Executive Department.

“We acknowledge and we recognize the collective wisdom of Congress of these budgetary items in the GAA for 2021 but we have to, as these are not part of the original plan. We have to make sure that they are vetted fully by the agencies and the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] before they are released. And that’s why they are being subject to the approval of the President as well,” he said.

Angara, for his part, agreed with Binay and asked Executive Secretary (ES) Salvador Medialdea to prioritize the release of fundings for the scholarship of medical students.

“Maybe we can ask ES Medialdea to prioritize medical scholarships because that’s much needed, I think by the country,” he said.

Medialdea assured the senators that the fundings will be released and said that the OP will investigate if the budgets for the FLR programs were not being released after their approval.

“We will just look into it and see to it that this would be acted soonest,” he said.

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