Comelec to get P2.6B for automation
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has approved a P1.227 trillion budget proposal for 2008, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya has said.
The 2008 budget is eight percent or P91 billion higher than this year’s P1.136 trillion, Andaya told a press conference Tuesday after a meeting of the National Economic Development Authority board earlier in the day.
The proposed budget, to be submitted to Congress on August 22, covers infrastructure, education, health, housing, science and technology, salary adjustment of government personnel, and poll automation, among others.
Andaya said the 2008 budget would be sourced from the P1.236 trillion expected revenues from tax collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs, which have been ordered by the President to meet their collection targets.
The Department of Education will get the biggest slice in the proposal with P145 billion for 2008 from P141 billion this year, followed by the DPWH with P93.5 billion from P79.6 billion; the Department of National Defense with P56 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government, P52.5 billion; and the Department of Agriculture, 21.7 billion, Andaya said.
From the proposed P93.5 billion appropriation for the DPWH, P11.5 billion, along with P5.8 billion from the Department of Transportation and Communication, will go to the infrastructure projects mentioned by the President in her State of the Nation Address Monday, Andaya said.
On sectoral spending, personnel services will get the biggest allocation with P377.6 billion. This will include the payroll of the 1.1 million government employees and pension of military and police retirees, Andaya said.
Social services has been allocated P363 billion for 2008 from this year’s P321 billion; interest payments, P300 billion from P318 billion; and economic services, P289 billion from P246 billion, Andaya said.
Malacañang has retained the P4-billion budget of the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel,” Andaya said.
Despite the controversy over the contract entered into by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for election automation in 2003, the poll body will still get P2.6 billion for automation under the proposed 2008 budget, Andaya said.
Andaya said the budget would be used to automate the election in time for the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao next year and for the 2010 presidential election.
“Originally that budget was scheduled for 2009 in time for the 2010 presidential polls. But the President herself said maybe we can hasten the automation in time for the ARMM elections next year,” Andaya said.
The fresh funding is on top of the P1.3 billion, which had been paid by the government to Mega Pacific eSolutions as initial payment for the cost of storing the poll machines at P3.9 million a year.
In its January 2004 decision, the Supreme Court voided the Comelec contract with Mega Pacific, citing irregularities in the bidding process.
Asked why the government was allocating a new budget for automation when it has yet to recover the P1.3 billion, Andaya said, “That is a separate case. We leave its resolution to the proper venue. This is fresh funding for the automation of next year’s elections and eventually for 2010.”
Andaya said the agencies that have been given increases in their budgets for 2008 were the Department of Science and Technology, with a 51 percent increase or from P3.6 billion in 2007 to P5.2 billion for 2008; the Department of Health, a 22 percent increase; and the National Housing Authority, 1,847 percent increase or from P257 million this year to P5 billion, Andaya said.
In crafting the budget, Andaya said the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been forecast between 6.1 and 6.8 percent, foreign exchange rate between P47 to P49 to a dollar, and export and import growth rates at 11 percent.