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Senate eyes 2023 budget approval by end-November

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Senate eyes 2023 budget approval by end-November
Photos shows of senators in opening of the 19th congress at the Senate on July 25, 2022.
STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Leaving no chance for a reenacted budget, the Senate is set on approving the record P5.268-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2023 by the end of November.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri asserted yesterday that the budget timeline is right on schedule. When The STAR asked if there was any possibility of a reenacated budget, he answered: “Absolutely not.”

“We will follow the schedule. What we want is that by the end of November, there will be the approval (of the GAA) on the second and third reading,” Zubiri added.

Boosting his confidence is the fact that the Senate committee on finance, chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara, has been conducting briefings even as Congress went on a break since Sept. 30. Session resumes officially on Nov. 7.

“Right now we are on break but there are ongoing committee hearings, which will be over next week. We plan that by Nov. 7 we will have plenary debates from morning to evening. We are here 12 or 13 hours a day until we finish the budget,” Zubiri said.

So far, Angara’s committee and sub-committees have approved and submitted the budgets of several departments and agencies for plenary deliberations.

Among them are the Departments of Justice, Information and Communications Technology, Interior and Local Government, and Labor and Employment and the Commission on Audit (COA).

On Monday, the Senate is set to conduct the budget briefing of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Office of the President, among others.

All things considered, Zubiri foresees the latest time to get the budget approved by the bicameral conference committee in the second week of December.

“We’re on track… we don’t see any major obstacles to pass the budget,” he said. “Sen. Angara is doing a great job, just like all the other subcommittee chairpersons. I don’t think we will have a big problem.”

Asked to describe the 2023 GAA, the Senate President said it is designed for “recovery and revenue generation” as the country advances from the economic scourge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The direction (of the national budget) is first of all, thrifty and save where they can save. Continue revenue collections, plugging the leaks, eliminate corruption to ensure the money will go to the government operations and belt-tightening and fight inflation,” he said.

Zubiri acknowledged an anticipated higher deficit next year. “We will borrow again to pay the expenditure, we will double the effort for the revenue collection,” he said.

“This phenomenon is not only in the Philippines. The inflation is not only in the country but the entire region like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. People in Indonesia are staging rallies due to the high prices of oil,” he added.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Martin Romualdez told reporters that he expects the bicameral conference committee to be the final battleground for approval of the national budget, including the P77.5 billion in funds realigned mostly for the health and education sectors.

“There were refinements across the board,” said Romualdez, referring to the realignments made by the small committee he formed, composed of Reps. Zaldy Co and Stella Luz Quimbo, chairman and senior vice chairperson of the House appropriations committee, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe and Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan. – Delon Porcalla, Louise Maureen Simeon

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