‘Budget bill certification ensures timely passage’

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
�Budget bill certification ensures timely passage�
Stock photo of a peso money bill.
Philstar / Jovannie Lambayan

MANILA, Philippines — The certification by President Marcos of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) of 2024 (House Bill 8980) as “urgent” will ensure its passage on time as the House of Representatives conducts plenary deliberations on government agencies’ proposed allocations, lawmakers said.

The “urgent” certification means the lower legislative chamber can pass the proposed P5.67-trillion national budget for 2024 on third and final reading next week, or until Sept. 30, before Congress – the Senate included – goes on a recess until Nov. 5.

“The House stands united in its commitment to pass the 2024 national budget and support the government’s initiatives aimed at promoting economic growth, social development and the well-being of every Filipino,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

The GAB that Marcos is expected to sign in early December will have “special emphasis” on the three legacy projects of the President, such as putting up specialty hospitals across the country, the establishment of six million housing units and rice self-sufficiency, Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House appropriations committee, said.

Meanwhile, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said he has secured a commitment from the Development and Budget Coordination Committee for the funding of the decommissioning of the remaining 14,000 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the 2024 national budget.

“The decommissioning of MILF combatants is one of the promises that should be kept as this will bring about total peace in Bangsamoro. We have worked on this for a very long time, that is why we’re hoping that we can finally achieve peace with this,” Hataman said.

Appropriations committee vice chair Rep. Stella Quimbo bared that the decommissioning allocation for next year is P901 million, which covers the decommissioning of over 9,000 combatants.

Meanwhile, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) acting administrator Eduardo Guillen requested the House to restore the P91-billion budget the Department of Budget and Management removed from their original P132.4-billion allocation for 2024.

The NIA chief said his recommended annual allocation of P200 billion for irrigation aims to quickly address perennial problems on food security, agricultural productivity and job creation from 80 years to 10 years.

At the same time, Guillen also lamented that the budget proposal includes immediate measures to cope with an impending El Niño that could severely affect farm production due to water and irrigation shortage.

The NIA official also complained that the substantial reduction in their budget for 2024 “will stall projects intended to significantly increase rice production and ensure food security.”

“This is not ideal, considering the urgent need to address food security and uplift the livelihood of our farmers. To expedite the progress and contribute to accelerated and inclusive economic growth, I recommend a dramatic increase in funding for irrigation infrastructure,” he said. – Neil Jayson Servallos

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