Bicam panel starts work on 2023 budget

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SOME members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will meet on Friday (today) to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the proposed P5.268-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2023.

During the congressional bicameral conference committee, lawmakers from both houses will thresh out differences in their versions of the budget bill.

The Congress is eyeing to finish the final version of the annual budget and ratify it before its break on December 16 so as to have a budget sent to Malacañang and signed into law by the President before the year ends.

“Of course, on top of our priority list is the final approval or ratification of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget. We will have a budget before the end of the year,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

The proposed 2023 P5.268-trillion GAA is the first national budget to be enacted under the Marcos administration.

The Senate bicameral contingent is composed of Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Ronald dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Lawrence Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Mary Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada.

On the other hand, the House contingent is composed of Rep. Elizaldy Co, Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, Rep. Ralph Recto, Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe, Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, Rep. David Suarez, Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, Rep. Jose Aquino II, Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon, Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Rep Michael John Duavit, Rep. Marcelino Libanan and Rep. Edcel Lagman.

Angara, the Senate Committee on Finance chairman, described the 2023 budget measure as one that addresses the needs of the people post-pandemic, supports the goal of ensuring food security, reviving education and preparing the country for the impacts of climate change, among other things.

According to Angara, around P152.67-million lump sum allocations, including confidential funds, were realigned by the Senate.

Earlier, Speaker Romualdez said the House may adjust the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for next year for the rehabilitation of areas affected by Severe Tropical Storm (STS) Paeng.

Romualdez asked the House Committee on Appropriations to compile the damage assessment from House members and executive offices “so that they may aid us in reviewing possible adjustments in budget allocation for repair and rehabilitation of affected areas under the proposed 2023 General Appropriations Act.”

“The House of Representatives will use its power over the purse to see to it that rehabilitation of affected communities will proceed unhampered,” Romualdez added.

Budget increase

Meanwhile, Pangasinan Rep. Christopher De Venecia thanked the Senate as some P932.924 million in total were added to the arts and culture agencies, with the bulk going to the National Museum, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and Cultural Center of the Philippines.

“The arts and culture sector saw their DBM-proposed 2023 budgets shrunk, but with the gracious intervention of the senators, the agencies’ appeals were heard and granted with significant amounts restored,” he said.

Quezon Rep. Reynan Arrogancia also lauded the Senate for increasing the budgets of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Space Agency, and Southern Luzon State University.

The Senate increased the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources budget by P720 million and the Philippine Space Agency budget by P200 million.

Arrogancia has said the BFAR “should be modernized so they can provide our fishermen with sturdy fishing boats and high-tech equipped communications and GPS.”

BHW Rep. Natasha Co said the Senate has also increased the allocation of Council for the Welfare of Children by P60.132 million; Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council by P100 million; National Authority for Child Care by P300 million; Philippine Commission on Women by P21.295 million.

Co said the Senate has also increased the budget of the National Nutrition Council by P37.83 million; Philippine Children’s Medical Center by P673 million;  Department of Health by P4.8 billion;  Early Childhood Care and Dev. Council by P232.383 million; SUCs in the Bicol Region by P122.562 million; University of the Philippines by P1.127 billion; Department of Education by P911.857 million and Commission on Higher Education by P512.5 million.