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Philippines' Duterte signs 2017's record 3.35t peso budget into law

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[MANILA] Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed 2017's record budget into law on Thursday, the first spending measure under his administration which he described as a response to the public's "clamour for change." Duterte, who won the presidential election in May by a huge margin on pledges of wiping out crime and illegal drugs, has vowed to prioritise infrastructure spending to help lift long-term economic growth and address poverty.

[MANILA] Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed 2017's record budget into law on Thursday, the first spending measure under his administration which he described as a response to the public's "clamour for change." Duterte, who won the presidential election in May by a huge margin on pledges of wiping out crime and illegal drugs, has vowed to prioritise infrastructure spending to help lift long-term economic growth and address poverty.

The 3.35 trillion peso (S$96.5 billion) budget is 11.6 per cent higher than 2016's spending plan. It allows the government to spend more on roads, bridges, airports and meet a 6.5 to 7.5 per cent economic growth target the president has set for the year.

"The budget is useless if the Filipino is not at its centre," Mr Duterte said after the signing ceremony at the presidential palace.

"This budget is a credible budget for every peso. It will be spent for the gains of the Filipino people."

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Mr Duterte said the public works agency will get 455 billion pesos next year, up 0.3 pe rcent from 2016, while the government's transportation and communication department will receive 53.3 billion pesos, an increase of 25 per cent.

Education will account for the lion's share of the budget, Mr Duterte said, with the sector getting 544.1 billion pesos, 32.1 per cent higher than this year's programme.

Mr Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, said the budget will allow the government to provide free education at state universities and colleges, universal healthcare and a rice allowance for beneficiaries of conditional cash transfers.

Fulfilling an election campaign promise, Mr Duterte said the budget covers irrigation, freeing farmers from a significant cost burden.

"I have wondered why farmers have to pay for water that no one really owns," Mr Duterte said.

REUTERS

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