On the passage of the 2017 General Appropriations Act

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said on Thursday that while there are “laudable changes” in next year’s General Appropriations Act, the national budget remains “largely framed for implementing the neoliberal agenda.”

In a statement released right after the signing ceremony at Malacañang this afternoon, Elago said that the passage of the 2017 budget cannot be simply defined in “black and white” terms.

“We acknowledge great developments included in next year’s national budget, including the introduction of free tuition in our state universities and colleges, and free irrigation for farmers. However, we must assess the budget not just for its progressive parts, but in its entirety. And we remain to believe that the budget is pro-big business as it allots billions of funds for public-private partnership projects and is framed to implement and further exacerbate neoliberal attacks against the Filipino people.”

The lawmaker pointed to funds appropriated for the continued implementation of counter-insurgency schemes, public-private partnerships, and questionable projects including billions in farm-to-market roads that may be used for political patronage.

“Let us be clear: the budget for free tuition is one of the game-changers in next year’s budget. Yet there are other portions of the budget, including that of the Department of Education, that puts a premium on guaranteed profits for the private sector,” Elago said, referring to budget allotted for the Senior High School voucher program to cover private schools.

Elago called on the public to remain vigilant and not let the government use even a centavo in the budget for abuse and corruption.

“The budget process, and public vigilance, does not and should not end with the passage of the General Appropriations Act. The people’s money should be used for the people’s welfare. There are some quarters who say that pork has been excised in the national budget, but that remains to be seen. We need to further scrutinize the final version of the budget,” she explained.###