Lacson proposes more UHC, National ID funding

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SENATOR Panfilo M. Lacson said he proposed budget amendments providing for additional funding for the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) program, Universal Health Care (UHC), and free university tuition.

In documents posted to his website, Mr. Lacson outlined his proposed amendments to the Senate Finance Committee, noting that the key programs have been allocated insufficient funds in the P4.1 trillion 2020 budget. The two chambers’ budget bills are currently being harmonized in bicameral session with a ratification target of next week.

Mr. Lacson proposed to increase the budget of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to P7.009 billion from P1.364 billion, citing the insufficient allocation for Philsys, or the National ID program, of P2.4 billion.

He said the estimated cost to provide IDs to an initial 14 million Filipinos is P5.7 billion, more than double the budgeted funds.

The National ID is intended to increase financial inclusiveness by giving those without bank accounts access to an ID acceptable to all banks. A more secure ID is also expected to reduce benefits fraud in cash transfers to the poor and possibly ease the implementation of Universal Health Care (UHC).

“The funding gap will significantly hamper our annual implementation targets and fundamentally, our aim to achieve universal coverage,” Mr. Lacson said.

Mr. Lacson also proposed to increase the budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) by P2 billion to P45.88 billion. The increase will fund the Tertiary Education Subsidy.

He proposed to increase the Department of Health’s (DoH) budget by P3 billion, with P1 billion to support the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, and P2 billion for the Human Resource for Health program.

“One of the key programs under the UHC is the Health Facilities Enhancement Program where appropriations significantly decreased from P15.92 billion under the 2019 GAA (General Appropriations Act) to a mere P5.9 billion under the NEP National Expenditure Plan) 2020.”

To fund the increased program budgets, Mr. Lacson proposed to reduce the funding for the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), among others.

The DoTr budget for Right-of-Way Acquisition was reduced by half to P5 billion, while P15 billion was slashed from the DPWH ROW appropriations.

Mr. Lacson said as of Oct. 31, the DoTr has only obligated P1.2 billion of P13.26 billion budget for ROW payments. “Considering that huge unused appropriations will be carried over next year, it is inefficient to provide substantial funding for ROW,” he said.

He said the DPWH’s average unused appropriations from 2011 to 2018 was P82.4 billion.

The chambers of Congress are working to submit the budget to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for signing before the year ends and avoid a repeat of the four-month delay in the 2019 budget, which has been blamed for dampening economic growth in early 2019. — Charmaine A. Tadalan