Health, nutrition, population top Bukidnon budget

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 Nov) - Health, nutrition and population make up for the highest chunk, a total of 31 percent, of Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan’s first proposed annual budget.

The governor, in his presentation before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week, sealed an inaugural pledge to stick to the vision and programs of his predecessor in his first budget message.

Calingasan has proposed P536 million for health, nutrition and population out of his proposed P1.73 billion budget.

He said “continuity of progress and peace” is the centerpiece of his administration as “I promised to continue the vision of the former governor, Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.”

Zubiri in 2009 proposed a P1.36-billion budget for the province in 2010, a fifth higher than the 2009 budget of P1.06 billion.

Primary among Calingasan’s focus of governance will be “to continue and sustain the existing health programs of the province.”

He added that he has a “bias towards the indigents and our indigenous peoples (IPs) will receive the same focus and intent.”

In his radio program, Calingasan mulled reopening the old building of the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital for the IPs. He said he needed P5 million to rehabilitate the building.

Calingasan cited in his family planning program that he will tap the church as a “partner”.

He said shelter is “a basic need that has to be underscored.” Calingasan vowed to implement the provincial scholarship program “with more impetus in additional areas of concern”

He also committed to put up a “demonstration farm for seed production and goats for dispersal.” He told MindaNews he will add value to Bukidnon’s agriculture as a priority.

He also cited “Bukidnon as a frontier in environmental enhancement and protection” as he vowed clean and green activities in denuded areas.

“The dream of providing you the essentials of life as my legacy to the province will be the overall theme in these efforts. This will support the thrusts on poverty alleviation, food sufficiency, balanced ecology and growth with social equity,” the governor said in highlighting the features of his proposed budget.

He said the focus on health, nutrition and population is “an indication of our focus on alleviating the living conditions of our indigents and indigenous peoples.”

He added that the programs on health and social services are geared towards “making our less fortunate people meet their daily sustenance.”

He said programs on agriculture development will continue to be pursued.

“Endowed with vast natural resources and viable agricultural products, we are the major producer of agricultural products which reach other regions in the country and abroad,” Calingasan said.

Aside from support to the Provincial Agriculture Office, 11 percent of his budget was meant for economic services and an additional of 10.13 percent for subsidy to economic enterprises.

“We will continue to use sustainable approaches to improve agricultural productivity in our effort to be a major producer of processed and semi-processed agricultural products. With the economic zones in the province, environment-friendly manufacturing and agri-based industries will be pursued and farmers will be encouraged to be entrepreneurs,” he vowed to the provincial board.

The provincial board requires the governor to deliver a budget message to outline his administration’s budget directions before they deliberate on the details of the budget for approval.

But like the Zubiri administration, Calingasan plans to make us of its hospitals as a source of its revenues as an economic enterprise.

The Calingasan administration plans to earn at least P243.5 million from “hospital fees” from the Bukidnon Provincial Hospitals and medical center. This will form at least 14 percent of its revenues to fund the 2011 budget. Bukidnon’s government-owned hospitals are under the capitol’s economic enterprise department.

Calingasan said that Bukidnon being considered as the watershed of Mindanao, his administration’s concern for the conservation, protection and greening of the province is given “due attention”.

“In the past months, we have done growing activities with the support of our people and other institutions. Included in the general public services which is given 21.18 percent of our budget are efforts on this sector,” he said.

But the governor’s general fund budget for the Kitanglad and Kalatungan mountain ranges and natural parks has remained at P1.5 million for the whole year, based on initial drafts of the budget presented to the provincial board.

In his inaugural speech he vowed to double it. He clarified to MindaNews after his speech that he plans to augment the budget and make true his promised double park management budget through “supplemental budget” next year.

The governor also said that he wants the priorities of the Department of Public Works and Highways to “fit into the development directions of the province.”

He said infrastructure development is not only limited to the maintenance of provincial roads.

“It also includes our concern on rehabilitation and improvement of major highways in Bukidnon. Our role is needed in fund sourcing and realignment of existing priorities of the national leadership,” Calingasan said.

He cited the Provincial Road Management Facility with the Australian Aid as a partner in the thrust in the next five years.

Calingasan vowed that all of his administration’s activities are “people-centered development initiatives” where people shall be the subject of development and as partners in moving forward.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. told MindaNews the capitol could not make significant changes in the budget as the national government is expected to have a reduced budget.

Bukidnon is expecting to get P1.234 billion of internal revenue allotment share next year. The rest of the budget will be sourced from local income, including hospital fees and other subsidies. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)