Legislators welcomed peoples’ alternative budget proposals for the national budget
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·SEPTEMBER, 2021
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The 200 civil organizations-strong Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), which pioneered citizens' engagement in the formulation of the national budget, met with legislators in the House of Representatives to lobby for alternative budget proposals for the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In a series of discussions titled "Budget Serye sa Kongreso," held daily from September 20-24, 2021, some members of the House of Representatives welcomed the Social Watch Philippines - Alternative Budget Initiative's (SWP-ABI) proposed budgets for health, education, social protection, agriculture, child protection and sectoral concerns of persons with disabilities, senior citizens and children.
Among those who welcomed and expressed their support to the alternative budget proposals are Congressman Edcel Lagman - Superman of the First District of Albay, Congressman Alfred Vargas of the Fifth District of Quezon City and Chairperson of the House Committee on Social Services, Congresswoman Josy Sy Limkaichong of the First District of Negros Oriental and Congressman Roman Romulo of the Lone District of Pasig City and chairperson of the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture.
Among those who welcomed and expressed their support to the alternative budget proposals are Congresswoman Josy Sy Limkaichong of the First District of Negros Oriental, Congressman Roman Romulo of the Lone District of Pasig City and chairperson of the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture, Congressman Edcel Lagman - Superman of the First District of Albay, and Congressman Alfred Vargas of the Fifth District of Quezon City.
"The ongoing budget hearing is very important for the country and the citizens' alternative budget proposals is an integral part of the process," said Cong. Romulo. This not only helps ensure that there is transparency in the government budget process, it also helps us ensure that government budget and programs are really effective. What is important is that it helps improve the quality of life of every Filipino," he said.
The budget for the Department of Education was among the main concerns of the ABI. "The civil society groups under SWP-ABI appreciates the Government for the significant increases in the Philippines' education budget, especially in the last five years even under COVID," said Social Watch co-convenor Rene Raya. He also noted the improved utilization rate owing to the financial reforms instituted by the Department of Education (DepEd). "However, the country’s spending level is still low compared to neighboring Asian countries and to the requirements of quality and inclusive education. To address this, we call on the legislators to provide significant increase in the DepEd's budget for its Inclusive Education Programs". Raya said.
"Inclusive Education Programs get only 2% of DepEd’s budget. Budget is decreasing instead of increasing especially in this time of pandemic when more learners are expected to drop out of school. Budget for teachers’ trainings under Human Resource Development also decreased," lamented Flora Arellano, President of the Civil Society Network for Education Reforms.
The citizens' alternative budget proposals for inclusive education included ₱10 billion budget to cover one million Filipino learners under the Alternative Learning System, ₱35 million increases for the budget for Indigenous Peoples' (IP) Education for IP Learning Centers in one hundred IP communities, ₱100 Million increase in the budget for Madrasah Basic Education to cover 20 thousand poor Muslim children, additional ₱5 billion allocation for the construction of infrastructure for 88 Last Mile Schools, full restoration of the ₱100 million appropriation for textbooks and instruction materials for learners with disabilities.
The SWP-ABI also alerted the legislators for the need to increase budget to support teachers' requirements in teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Based on the ABI's budget analyses and consultation with DepEd, there will be a need for ₱21.6 billion increase to support teachers' requirements for online and distance learning, ₱5 billion increase for the continuing training of teachers and parents for multi-modal teaching and learning, and the payment of the Special Hardship Allowance in areas that have been declared in State of Calamity, pursuant to Section 19 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers," Arellano explained.
The group also lamented on the dire situation of violence against children in the Philippines. The National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children (2016) showed that three out of five children were physically and psychologically abused, two out of five children experienced abuse online, and six in 10 children experienced peer violence.
SWP Public Investment in Children Specialist Maria Luz Anigan said that the ABI recognized DepEd efforts to protect children, especially during the pandemic, through the creation of the Child Protection Unit in 2021. "To make the Child Protection Unit (CPU) functional, the government should allocate budgets to support its operation, including plantilla positions for the DepEd CPU," Anigan said. "The ABI calls for an additional budget of ₱12.145 million for the Child Protection Program under the newly established Child Protection Unit. This is critical to strengthen the unit and strategize, monitor and improve the functionality of child protection committees in schools, regions and divisions," Anigan said.
"We want reforms to happen and we appreciate SWP for the alternative budget proposals. The policymakers are listening," said Cong. Romulo. ###
About Social Watch Philippines
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), is a network of a hundred civil society organizations advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor use of public funds.
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