Speaker: 2023 budget passed by December

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Speaker: 2023 budget passed by December
House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez took his oath of office before the House of Representatives on Monday.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez is confident that the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA) will be passed this December, after the Senate and House of Representatives convened yesterday the bicameral conference committee to begin reconciling conflicting provisions in their respective versions of the P5.268-trillion proposed budget.

“We will have the Agenda for Prosperity national budget before the end of the year,” Romualdez said, noting that the two chambers have enough time to come up with the final version of the budget before they start their Christmas recess on Dec. 17.

“We have sufficient time, we will finally approve the budget before yearend. It is the most important tool in accomplishing the objectives of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity and his eight-point socio-economic development plan,” he added.

With the budget, he said they are hopeful “to sustain or even accelerate our economic growth, which should benefit all of our people” and that the data for the first three quarters of the year “is very encouraging.”

“With economic expansion figures averaging 7.7 percent, we are on track to achieving the administration’s growth target for this year of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent,” Romualdez added. ?“We have come to the final phase of the budget authorization process, the consideration and approval of the bicameral conference committee on the disagreeing votes on House Bill No. 4488,” said House committee on appropriations chair and Ako-Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co.

He noted that they hope to “arrive at a common and collective decision to reconcile our differences and harmonize them with the programs of the present administration and balance them with the needs of our constituents.”

Committee senior vice chair and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said they will discuss the reconciliation of their differing realignments of programmed funds for next year.

But Quimbo expressed belief that the House and the Senate will find common ground, as they will be guided by the eight-point socio-economic agenda of President Marcos.

“For the first time, we have adopted the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework that contains the 8-point Socio-Economic Agenda of our President. That will be the guiding posts of the House and the Senate,” she noted.

In September, the House had approved the P5.268-trillion proposed budget for 2023 with realigned funds amounting to P77.5 billion, while the Senate has realigned some P215 billion in funds.

Deputy Speaker and bicameral member Ralph Recto had expressed confidence “that the budget will be more responsive to both opportunities and challenges next year.”

Bicam panel convenes

Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, thanked counterparts from the House for swiftly approving and transmitting the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that gave senators time to come up with their own version.

He also thanked the Office of the President for submitting in August the Marcos administration’s first National Expenditure Program (NEP) for next year even if it was already partly drafted by the previous government.

“But, nonetheless, I know that the current administration worked overtime to place there the important programs, especially the ones the President promised during the campaign like the increased funding for agriculture, continuation of ‘ayuda’ (and to) do it in a more targeted form,” Angara said at the formal convening of the bicameral panel at the Manila Golf Club in Makati City.

“For us in the Senate, we did not amend them. We made our amendments but I think we kept the essence and we stuck to the principles set forth in the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF) which you also passed in the House,” he said.

What helped speed up the budget process in Congress, he said, was the passage of the MTFF that helped guide lawmakers in crafting the GAB, he said.

Angara and Quimbo told reporters they hope to come up with a final and reconciled version by next week. The lawmakers added that the Senate made P215 billion in amendments to the NEP while the House made changes worth P77 billion to the same but there are likely overlaps so the two figures are not to be taken as a sum.

“Although there are disagreeing provisions, I believe amounting to about P215 billion worth of increases in budget items, I think the House and the Senate will come to an agreement quickly because for the first time, we adopted the MTFF, which contains the eight-point socioeconomic agenda of the President,” Quimbo told reporters partly in Filipino.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a member of the panel, indicated that the Senate contingent should not allow its amendment to realign some of the confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in some civilian agencies to their maintenance and other operating expenses be removed for the sake of transparency.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Angara have said Congress aims to have the GAB signed into law by Marcos before Christmas.

Trim the fat

There’s still “a huge amount of fat” hidden within the proposed P5.27- trillion budget for 2023 in the form of nearly P4 billion CIF – some of which could have been allocated for social protection programs to aid the poor, think tank Infrawatch PH said.

“What we are saying is that there is still such a great amount of fat that needs to be trimmed, particularly in the confidential intelligence funds,” Infrawatch convenor and former Kabataan party-list congressman Terry Ridon said over “The Chiefs” on One News Thursday night.

Opposition Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Hontiveros have questioned the allotment of nearly P4 billion in CIF to the Departments of Education, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Social Welfare and Development and the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The Senate and Congress really have to explain further why these agencies have to have their CIF maintained,” Ridon said, adding that there was a need to revert to the practice of keeping CIF amounts at reasonable levels.

“Let us not give them a blank check and not just to the different agencies, but also to the Office of the President,” he urged. – Paolo Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with