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House vows to OK national budget next week

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
House vows to OK national budget next week
“We can work until the wee hours if needed. We want to expedite the approval of the NEP (national expenditure program) so that we can also attend to other equally important measures,” House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said.
Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Martin Romualdez has vowed to approve on third and final reading next week the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023, before Congress takes a break on Oct. 1.

“We can work until the wee hours if needed. We want to expedite the approval of the NEP (national expenditure program) so that we can also attend to other equally important measures,” House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said.

“We have other priority bills which we intend to pass during the 19th Congress (July 2022-June 2025),” the Zamboanga City congressman said, promising to approve the NEP for next fiscal year.

As far as he is concerned, Dalipe said the rate of progress in the approval of the budget proposals of each government department has been “very satisfactory” and is within the timeline set by the House committee on rules that he heads.

Without any hitches, he said the House could terminate the floor debates and make way for the period of amendments on Sept. 28, as plenary deliberations started last Tuesday.

.“The House is committed to finish the sponsorship and floor debates by Wednesday next week (Sept. 28) and approve the budget on Sept. 30.”

In a related development, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman questioned what he sees as inequitable distribution of the 2023 infrastructure budget for Mindanao, noting that four of the five poorest regions in the country are in southernmost Philippines.

Mindanao suffered a huge slash in infrastructure outlay, from P84.69 billion in 2022 to only P30.49 billion in 2023 – a reduction of P54.2 billion or almost a 64-percent decrease from last year.

Hataman is asking if the Development Budget Coordinating Committee considered poverty incidence in formulating the proposed national budget prepared by the Department of Budget and Management.

He called on his colleagues in the House, especially those from Mindanao, to unite and work for the restoration of the infrastructure budget of Mindanao back to its 2022 levels.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III is also poised to ask “courteous” questions about the intelligence funds allotted to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education, which Vice President Sara Duterte leads in concurrent capacity.

In an interview Wednesday night with “The Chiefs” aired over One News, Pimentel assured the public that he and his colleagues in the Senate will never allow the chamber to become a rubber stamp – even when Congress traditionally approves swiftly the budget of the OVP.

“We will be courteous but we will have questions. We need to ask questions especially if we are going to start a practice. And it will be very difficult to reverse this practice of giving the vice president confidential funds and the Office of the DepEd Secretary confidential funds. So we will ask what it (intelligence funds) is for,” Pimentel added. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Janvic Mateo

MARTIN ROMUALDEZ

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