House Committee on Appropriations Senior vice chairperson and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo admitted that only a small portion of the P5.268 trillion budget for 2023 was allocated for social protection.
During Tuesday’s budget deliberation, House Assistant Minority leader and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas asked Quimbo why the budget for financial assistance next year had been reduced.
Brosas said the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for protective services for individuals and families in difficult circumstances has been slashed by 50% to just P19.89 billion, while the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) adjustment measure program shrunk to P320 million.
She said the budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) increased to P115 billion “pero dahil sa pagtaas ng pondo para sa administrative cost hindi para sa dagdag na benepisyaryo para sa programa.”
“So Mr. Speaker bakit po ganun?” Brosas asked.
Quimbo, who sponsored the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), summarized her answer “in one simple phrase, which is we have at this point in time unlimited needs but unfortunately limited funds.”
“Yun po ang malaking problema sa ngayon. We have a very limited fiscal space with a total budget ceiling of P5.268 trillion, ang dinagdag lamang ay P244 billion kumpara sa previous budget (2022),” Quimbo added.
Quimbo stressed that this does not mean that providing financial assistance is not important.
Brosas said that it is hard to accept the answer because the proposed budget contains expenditures for programs that do not have direct benefits to the Filipinos like the AFP Modernization program, barangay development program of the NTF-ELCAC, and billions worth of intelligence and confidential funds.
“Hindi ba’t dapat gamitin ang mga ponding ito na titiyak o magdudulot ng stimulus sa ekonomiya gaya ng direct cash aid?” Brosas said.
Quimbo stressed that other agencies also needed the resources to fulfill their mandates.
Brosas then stressed that only P168 billion or 3.2% of the P5.268 trillion budget have been allocated to the social protection program.
Quimbo disagreed and said that there are other items in the budget for social protection such as the fuel subsidy program, and scholarships totaling P250 billion.
Quimbo stressed that social protection programs can be likened to a net that will protect a person from falling into the ravine.
“Ito ay tagasalo kapag ikaw ay nahulog, nandun ka nahulog ka sa bangin may sasalo sa’yo yan ay social protection program pero hindi naman po araw-araw ikaw ay mahuhulog sa bangin marami pang kailangang gawin katulad ng investment in human capital ang pinaka-importante dito ay ang ating spending in education at ang kabuuang gastos sa education… ay aabot sa P852 billion,” Quimbo explained.