Aquino signs 2012 budget, vetoes provision on debt cap

Aquino signs 2012 budget, vetoes provision on debt cap

President Aquino has signed the P1.8-trillion budget program for 2012, boasting it was the swiftest budget approval since the restoration of democracy in 1986, and promised that every peso would be spent on uplifting the lives of the people.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said with the early signing of the budget program, the government could immediately implement its programs and key infrastructure projects even next year.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. described the early approval of the budget as a vote of confidence for Aquino. Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the early signing of the budget bill into law would give the Palace enough time to frontload funds to agencies and to pump-prime the economy.

For his part, Senate finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon said the early enactment of the 2012 budget is in line with the government’s program of fast-tracking its infrastructure and social services programs next year.

The President said the education sector got the lion share in the budget program. This was followed by the health sector, and the infrastructure and agricultural sectors.

Abad defended Aquino’s vetoing of the 60 percent cap on debt. Public sector debt as of last year already stood at 73.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is well beyond the 60-percent debt cap provision included by Congress in the General Appropriations Bill.

Introduced by opposition Sen. Joker Arroyo, the special provision would have required the executive branch to seek the approval of Congress for any government borrowing that goes beyond the equivalent of 60 percent of GDP.

Arroyo said the people will never know when the government is over-borrowing because there is no cap on borrowing.

During the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) briefing, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima argued that placing a cap on borrowings may cause undue concern in the credit markets and, in effect, increase the risk premium on Philippine debt.