By DARWIN G. AMOJELAR
The Manila Times Researcher
The government will set aside the P6.4 billion, previously earmarked for a constitutional convention, as appropriation for a constituent assembly, Budget Secretary Romulo L. Neri said Sunday.
In a phone interview, Neri told The Manila Times the money will come from the savings of government agencies. He did not say what those agencies were.
Neri also said the appropriation is included in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004 to 2010, the Arroyo administration’s economic blueprint.
Neri said the P6.4 billion is not yet included in the proposed 2006 budget, but it could be inserted under Special Appropriations.
The budget department has proposed a P1-trillion budget for next year, up from this year’s P907.6 billion.
President Arroyo has called for the rewriting of the Constitution to allow a shift from a presidential government to a parliamentary-federalist system.
She said federalism would make the country progressive and give the provinces a bigger voice in policy-making.
The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan calls for Charter changes made through a constitutional convention. But in the State of the Nation address last week, Mrs. Arroyo clearly advocated a constituent assembly in amending the Constitution.
Fusing the powers of the executive and legislative in a unicameral parliamentary system would "reduce if not totally eliminate delays in legislation and policy-making. As such, development efforts and other poverty reduction initiatives would be immediately acted upon," the development plan noted.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye has said the government is aware that Charter change entails huge funding, but the people should not regret spending for it.
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