The Sangguniang Panlalawigan has approved the ordinance for the provincial government’s local expenditure programs, or the budget for the Fiscal Year 2023, with a total amount of P4,293,809,569.

But before the budget was approved on Tuesday during their regular session, board member Winston G. Arzaga moved for some changes and realignment of funds allocated for the Office of Provincial Agriculture (OPA) and the Provincial Governor’s Office.

The budget was prepared and approved by the appropriations committee last Thursday, December 8.

Arzaga stated that the realignments were only for different programs under the OPA, which he discussed with provincial agriculturist Dr. Romeo Cabuncal, and for the PGO, as directed by Gov. Victorino Dennis M. Socrates.

The OPA realignments included a P5 million increase in the P3.8 million allocation for the Rural Agricultural Center (RAC) in Taytay town.

“The (additional) P1.2 million shall be taken from the agro-tourism site also of the OPA,” Arzaga said.

“The purpose of increasing the budget of RAC in Taytay is because it should be developed as agro-tourism site so that tourists going to Taytay or El Nido may simply decide to drop by and for us to showcase what we have there,” he added.

Arzaga explained that the RAC, like Yamang Bukid Farm and other agricultural tourism sites, should be considered an economic enterprise so that the province can profit from tourists who visit. He also said other improvements in the area like lodging houses can also be added for extra income in the future.

“That’s why we are increasing the budget,” he said.

Other realignments in the agriculture funds include the P1.2 million taken from the cacao production program and diverted to the rice and corn program, which Arzaga said is a banner program of the provincial government.

“The original budget is only P2.7 million. I think that’s not enough to have an impact in rice production,” he said.

He also said Kasuy industry needs to help in its rehabilitation in the amount of P1.2 million to be taken from the organic agriculture program.

He also made a cut from the P500,000 allotted for bamboo production transferring P400,000 to the vegetable production program of different schools in the province, under the Sinag program.

“It’s about time we increase this program and make it a banner program for all high schools,” he said.

Governor’s office
For the budget of the PGO, Arzaga also proposed the allocation of funds for different educational and training programs to be funded from the P97 million under the SPS program, which includes P5 million for training programs for organic vegetable production and other crops, in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the IP communities and training support for the production of inbred rice in partnership with the Agriculture Training Institute and TESDA.

P2 million out of the Executive Enhancement Program was also earmarked for the Enhanced Education Program through alternative Learning System aimed at upscaling employment opportunities, also in partnership with TESDA and a3rd party training provider.

Budget cut
Committee on Appropriations chair Board Member Juan Antonio E. Alvarez earlier noted that the 2023 budget suffered a reduction of almost P600,000 compared to this year but there’s nothing they could do except to ‘tighten the belt.’

“We have no other choice but to make do with what we have. While there are expected effects, we will make sure that priority programs will be funded, especially the delivery of basic services,” he said.

Departments with highest budget allocation are the Provincial Engineering Office, Provincial Social Welfare and Development office and the Provincial Health Office.

“Of course, we need to prioritize our infrastructure projects, and the delivery of basic and health services,” Alvarez noted.