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The Senate and House bicameral conference yesterday approved the first national budget of President Duterte amounting to P3.35 trillion next year.
The bicameral conference committee report signed at noon by Sen. Loren B. Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chief of the House Appropriations committee, followed days of in-fighting and compromises between senators and congressmen on their differing versions of the budget.
“It is something we are proud of. It has free irrigation for farmers, free health care, free education. Parang socialist,’’ Loren said. “We have done our best to please all sectors and provide the needs of our constituents,” she said.
Loren described the budget as socially-inclusive because for the first time we have a provision for farmers, free irrigation. “Second, we finally have a universal health care coverage which means eight million not originally PhilHealth members are now covered. The informal sector not registered with PhilHealth card, who do not know whom to approach, and other poor Filipinos are now covered at all public hospitals,’’ she said.
“Third, all State-owned universities and colleges, all students, the indigenous, the poor, and the middle class will have free tuition fees as we gave P8 billion to the CHED,’’ Loren said.
Loren assured that the budget was free from the Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel” fund that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Senate and House were expected to ratify the report yesterday afternoon after which it would be transmitted to Duterte for approval or veto. (Mario B. Casayuran)