Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Poll cancellation will free P7.7 B in SK funds, which Recto wants used for child feeding

MANILA-Postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will free up almost P7.7 billion in SK share from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of barangays this year, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

Under the law, the SKs get 10 percent of the barangays’ IRA, which is P76.7 billion for 2015.

Because the amount will now be retained by barangays, the latter can spend it for child feeding in day care centers, a program that will address the “two important issues of literacy and nutrition at the same time,” Recto suggested.

The P7.7 billion SK fund is actually bigger than the P7.2 billion that government will spend this year for two major nutrition programs run by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWS), Recto said.

Under the 2015 national budget, the DepEd is allocated P3.8 billion to provide meals to 1.93 million undernourished gradeschoolers.

DepEd’s original budget was P2.8 billion but Recto and Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Chiz Escudero increased it by P1 billion.

The DSWD, on the other hand, will get P3.36 billion for a supplemental feeding program covering 2.5 million two- to five-year olds enrolled in day care centers or wards of neighborhood associations.

“Theoretically, the funding for feeding can be doubled if the SK fund will be used to ‘fortify’ what has been earmarked in the national budget,” Recto said.

The Senate bill which resets the SK polls to October 2016 directs the barangay council to disburse the SK fund “solely for youth development programs.”

It reiterates the same provision in an earlier SK election postponement  law, Republic Act 10632 , which scrapped the polls supposed to be held in October 2013.

The passage of the bill resetting the SK polls anew is a done deal, Recto said. “In the Senate, there’s bipartisan consensus that calling off the elections is the right thing to do.”

“But the proposed law does not only reschedule the elections, it sets the policy on what will happen to the SK share, and that is to exclusively use it for youth development programs,” Recto explained.

“And no programs are more worthwhile than nutrition and education,” Recto said in justifying why the SK fund must be used to feed undernourished kids.

He, however, admitted that the final decision on how the SK share will be spent rests on the Sangguniang Barangay, for as long as it is within the ambit of programs for young people.

The IRA represents the 40 percent share of local governments from internal revenues collected by the national government three years before.  

For this year, total IRA is P389.8, with the 81 provinces getting P91 billion; 144 cities sharing P89.2 billion; 1,478 towns, P132.9 billion; and 41,889 barangays, P76.7 billion.

Recto said the SK share of P7.7 billion is three times bigger than the 2015 appropriations of the Department of Tourism, twice that of the Department of Trade and Industry, six times that of the Civil Service Commission, and bigger than the combined budget of the 26 state universities and colleges in the Visayas.

“It is even 15 times bigger the Assistance to Nationals Fund for overseas Filipinos in distress,” Recto said.

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