Marcos Jr. signs P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
Marcos Jr. signs P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024
3 cops axed over Ronaldo Valdez’s leaked video (Story on Page 7) PNP: No Christmas ceasefire with CPP-NPAStory on Page 6 SIM registration most searched news in Phl for 2023 – Google New COVID variant JN.1 may enter Phl Central bank pushes use of e-gifts for holidays Stop PUV modernization, transport group asks SC PHILHEALTH GETS ISO CERTIFICATION: The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. was recently awarded the coveted ISO 9001:2015 certification for its Quality Management System by third party auditor SOCOTEC Certification Phil- ippines Inc. Photo shows PhilHealth president and CEO Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. (center) receiving the ISO certification from SOCOTEC Philippines operations director Gilmore Rivera during simple rites in Pasig City. With them are (from left) acting vice president for PRO III and concurrent senior manager for organization and systems develop- ment office Henry Almanon, senior vice president for legal lawyer Jose Mari Tolentino and vice president for arbitration lawyer Jay Villegas. By NEIL JAYSON SERVALLOS By LAWRENCE AGCAOILI VOL. XXXVIII NO. 147 • THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2023 • 3 SECTIONS, 22 PAGES P25 MM= President Marcos signs the P5.768-trillion budget bill into law at Malacañang yesterday. Witnessing the signing are Senate President Miguel Zubiri, Speaker Martin Romualdez, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Senators Loren Legarda and Joel Villanueva as well as Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Mark Leandro Mendoza and Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino III, secretary general of the Lakas-CMD.
KJ Rosales

It’s final: No secret funds for OVP, DepEd

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos yesterday signed the P5.768-trillion budget for 2024, which allocates more funds to defense initiatives for the West Philippine Sea and financial assistance to cash-strapped Filipinos.

Marcos said the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2024 is the government’s “battle plan” to address poverty, illiteracy, food security, health, employment and the security of homes and borders of the country.

“Today, we sign the national budget, the instrument which tells how the taxes paid by the people will be returned to them. In effect, we are signing the renewal of our annual social contract with taxpayers, that what they have paid faithfully will be rebated to them in full,” Marcos said during the 2024 GAA signing.

Among the sectors that received a greater allocation for next year are transportation, defense and education.

The 2024 budget also saw Congress realigning most of the confidential funds of civilian agencies, including those of the Office of the Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd), toward maritime security.

This sparked and fueled rumors of a rift between Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte, whose offices lost a combined total of P650 million in confidential funds. Duterte was not present at the signing.

While the 2024 GAA marks a 9.5 percent increase from this year’s budget, the President underscored that next year’s funding would not be able to “fully fund” all the government’s plans for the country, stressing that “good fiscal stewardship” dictates restraint from further bloating the national debt.

“We can be reckless – take the easy path, borrow and let our children pick today’s tab up tomorrow. But debt is not the kind of inheritance that we want for those who will come after us. Good fiscal stewardship imposes upon us discipline not to be led into the temptation of bloating what we owe,” he said.

“Good government dictates upon us the duty to spend the appropriations we have cobbled together for the correct purposes, the right way, on time and on budget,” he added.

While Malacañang has yet to release a copy of the budget and Marcos’ veto message, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said there were no “direct vetoes” from the President and that the signed GAA was consistent with the priority programs and projects in the submitted proposal.

“Most of it are conditional and general observations. There are a few comments on how to implement the budget, (but overall) the budget stands,” Pangandaman told reporters after the signing.

Among Marcos’ instructions for budget spending next year, Pangandaman said, was for government agencies to actively spend their budgets to prevent GDP (gross domestic product) growth slowdown during this year’s second quarter that “was a result of the national government’s cost-conscious spending.”

Pangandaman, however, noted that the government was able to catch up on spending this year, with 98 percent of the 2023 GAA already released and almost 80 percent disbursed.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, described the 2024 GAA as one of the country’s most “responsive and progressive budgets in a while,” with larger allocations given to social services, emergency response and defense initiatives.

Zubiri said about P10.22 billion in additional funding was allocated to the government’s security cluster, which is intended to bolster defense and maritime security amid continued Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

Among the key defense spending strategies next year, he said, was the construction of three big ships for the Philippine Coast Guard.

“The plans of President Marcos (include) an Australian company that builds Australian navy ships based in Cebu. They are looking to be awarded this budget for ship construction so we can have Filipinos build the ships that would defend the West Philippine Sea,” he told reporters.

Zubiri also noted the larger allocations for cash assistance for individuals in crisis situations, the DepEd’s classroom building projects and funding for state universities and colleges.

The Senate president also noted Marcos’ speech on refusing to bloat the national debt, saying lawmakers could have made the 2024 GAA a P6-trillion budget, but “we kept (the increase within) a small margin from last year knowing fully well that we want to curb the national debt.”

Zubiri lauded Congress for stripping civilian government agencies of their confidential funds and realigning these to security agencies.

“We are also proud to reflect the people’s concerns about confidential funds, by making the 2024 budget more transparent and our government agencies and offices more accountable in their spending,” Zubiri said. –  Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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