Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Belmonte inks enrolled copy of GAA for 2011

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Dec. 20 (PNA) -- Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday afternoon signed the 1,248-page enrolled or ratified copy of the proposed P1.645-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2011, which according to him, "reflects our vote of confidence" on the leadership of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

"We fully support the President’s determination to promote good governance," said Belmonte.

But, at the same time, he also called on the executive branch of government "to spend it for the right purposes at the right time so it will have greater impact on the lives of our people."

The voluminous fiscal expenditure program will be sent to the Senate for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to sign before it is finally sent to the President who is expected to sign the proposed GAA for 2011 on Dec. 27 as relayed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Even as he was already elected Speaker before, Belmonte said this was the first time he signed an enrolled copy of a proposed national budget, noting that both the Senate and the House had a five percent cut on their respective annual budget.

"This is the earliest budget approval. And I congratulate the Executive Department, all my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate as well for the early passage of the annual budget. You know, this is also my first time to sign a proposed GAA," he said.

The Speaker said that the proposed national outlay for 2011 was devoid of the so-called congressional insertions, unlike the current GAA with at least P65 billion, of which some P16 billion have actually been released.

"There are hardly any insertions. We say no to ghost projects and waste of people’s money," he said, adding that concerned government agencies must make sure that the proposed spending program must "make the President’s promises to the people a reality."

Another feature of the proposed P1.645 trillion national budget for next year is the non-reduction or change of the funds allotted to automatic appropriations.

Belmonte said that the passage of the 2011 GAA, the first budget of the Aquino administration, should allow President Noynoy "his own imprint and direction" on the national fiscal expenditure program.

The Speaker, however, assured that Congress "will be watching very carefully how the budget will be spent."

It would be recalled that a provision in the proposed 2011 national budget that would have safeguarded savings from the P21-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program had been removed during the bicameral conference committee.

The House-approved budget has a special provision, stating that savings from the CCT program’s implementation should only be used for education and health.

"I think (President Aquino is) more trustworthy (in how the budget would be allocated, so that) people are more inclined to let him have the final say," the Speaker said.

Despite the removal of the special provision in the implementation of the CCT program, Belmonte said Congress still had the power to monitor where the CCT savings would be going.

"Within the powers of Congress, we can still inquire how they are spending it, how much is being spent and so forth," he said.

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