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Senate to ratify 2024 national budget today

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Senate to ratify 2024 national budget today
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on July 24, 2023.
STAR / Ming Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to ratify today the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“We’re ratifying the budget tomorrow (Monday),” Zubiri told The STAR yesterday when asked to give an update on the budget.

The budget approval will be done days before Congress goes on Christmas break.

Senate and House of Representatives contingents will convene the second bicameral conference committee to tackle disagreeing votes for House Bill 8980 or the General Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2024.

The meeting will be held at the Makati Shangri-La.

A Senate staff familiar with the proceedings said that “bicam members will have a symbolic signing of the approved bicam report today.”

After the signing, senators and congressmen will report at the Senate and the House in the afternoon where their respective reports will be ratified by both houses.

The bill will be registered, printed and transmitted to Malacañang.

“Hopefully, before Christmas, the budget will be signed by President Marcos,” the Senate staff said.

After the first bicam that was held last Nov. 30, senators and congressmen gave assurance that there would be no last-minute move to restore the P650-million confidential funds (CF) in the 2024 budgets for the office of Vice President Sara Duterte and the Department of Education, which she also heads.

For the 2024 budget, a restoration was ruled out after Duterte herself told Congress that she was no longer interested in seeking CF for next year, following backlash for her use of secret funds traditionally reserved for intelligence and security agencies.

The Senate said the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for next year would strengthen local production through modernization, mechanization and improved logistics; defend sovereignty; and ensure Filipinos’ safety against anyone who threatens violence.

Zubiri has designated senators to be among bicam members to help harmonize conflicting provisions of the 2024 budget with the House of Representatives.

Led by Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee, bicam members include Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Bato dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Mark Villar, Francis Tolentino, JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada.

The Department of Budget and Management earlier said a total of P10.14 billion in confidential and intelligence funds are being requested across certain government agencies.

The amount includes the request for CIFs of P4.5 billion from the Office of the President, or P2.25-billion confidential and P2.31-billion intelligence fund.

The Office of the Vice President requested P500 million while the DepEd asked for P150 million.

The offices of the senators have yet to disclose the total amount of requested CIFs that were retained or realigned.

Aside from education, the budget is also focused on the health system, which will get P243.36 billion; the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps and fuel subsidies under the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s aid, such as the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, which will get P49.8 billion, Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances or AICS, which will have P56.3 billion; Sustainable Livelihood Program; cash-for-work under the KALAHI-CIDSS with an additional P1 billion and the supplementary feeding program with P6.1 billion.

The government will still make education a priority for every Filipino youth, according to Angara.

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