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Speaker confident realigned funds will get Senate nod

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Speaker confident realigned funds will get Senate nod
Romualdez noted the P77-billion fund realigned by the House of Representatives would augment the budget for education, health, transportation and other critical social services.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez yesterday expressed confidence that the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 will agree to the House’s P77-billion institutional amendments.

In a statement, Romualdez noted the P77-billion fund realigned by the House of Representatives would augment the budget for education, health, transportation and other critical social services.

“We really feel that these institutional amendments will redound to the benefit of the people. We won’t go wrong if the welfare of the people will be our priority,” he said.

Last Friday, the House and the Senate had their first meeting to start the bicameral deliberations on next year’s proposed budget.

While the two chambers have approved the P5.268-billion General Appropriations Act for 2023, they have differed in the amount of budget realignments, with the House proposing P77 billion and Senate proposing P215 billion.

Members of the House are “confident that the Senate and the House bicam members will see eye-to-eye on this” issue, according to Romualdez.

“Our objectives are the same: to pass a people’s budget that reflects President Marcos’ eight-point economic agenda that will help the country bounce back from the pandemic,” he said.

House appropriations committee chairman and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co echoed this pronouncement, saying the lower chamber prioritized the welfare of the people when it included the P77-billion institutional amendments.

“Our amendments can speak for themselves. You can see that (they are) indeed pro-people and pro-development, as we prioritized health, education and transportation. We are confident that if the Senate and the House approve these amendments, we can recover well from the pandemic in 2023,” Co said.

Carefully crafted by the House, the institutional amendments are ayuda or assistance programs that will directly benefit the people, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s P12.5 billion broken down into Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations or AICS (P5 billion), upgrade of senior citizens’ pension through the National Commission of Senior Citizens (P5 billion) and sustainable livelihood program (P2.5 billion).

Co also cited the Department of Transportation’s P5.5 billion for programs addressing the rising cost of fuel, like the fuel subsidy program (P2.5 billion), Libreng Sakay program (P2 billion) and bike lane construction (P1 billion); and the Department of Labor and Employment’s P5 billion for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD program (P3 billion) and livelihood (P2 billion).

Others are the Department of Health’s P20.25 billion allotted for various programs such as Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (P13 billion), health care and non-health care workers and frontliners (P5 billion); support for specialty hospitals (P2 billion), and Cancer Assistance Program (P250 million).

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