House, Senate seen to allow ₧77-B amendments

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THE leadership of the House of Representatives on Sunday expressed confidence that they will reach common ground with senators on the P77-billion institutional amendments by the House to augment the budget for education, health, transportation and other critical social services.

In a statement, Speaker Martin G. Romualdez expressed confidence that the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee on the proposed P5.268-trillion 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will agree to the P77-billion revisions.

“We really feel that these institutional amendments will redound to the benefit of the people,” Romualdez said.

“And we are confident that the Senate and the House bicameral [panel] members will see eye-to-eye on this. Our objectives are the same: to pass a people’s budget that reflects President Marcos Jr.’s 8-point economic agenda that will help the country bounce back from the pandemic,” he added.

For his part, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Elizaldy Co said the House prioritized the welfare of the people when it included the P77-billion institutional amendments.

“Our amendments can speak for themselves. You can see that it is 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.

Crafted by the House, the institutional amendments are “ayuda” programs that will directly benefit the people, such as Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) P12.5 billion broken down into: Assistance to Individuals in
 Crisis Situations or AICS (P5B); upgrade of senior citizens’ pension through the National Commission of Senior Citizens (P5B); and Sustainable Livelihood Program (P2.5B).

Co also cited the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) P5.5 billion for programs addressing the rising cost of fuel like the fuel subsidy program (P2.5B), Libreng Sakay (P2B) and bike lane construction (P1B); and the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) P5 billion for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program (P3B) and livelihood (P2B), also part of the direct benefit to the people.

Other parts of the P77-billion institutional amendments are:

■ Department of Health’s (DoH) P20.25 billion allotted for various programs such as Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (P13B), healthcare and non-healthcare workers and frontliners (P5B); support for specialty hospitals (P2B); and Cancer Assistance Program (P250M).

■ Department of Education’s (DepEd) P10 billion for the school and classroom construction and special education programs (P50M).

■ Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) P5 billion for the training and scholarship programs.

■ Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) P5 billion for its Tulong Dunong Program.

■ Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) P10 billion for the construction of water systems in underserved upland barangays;

■ Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) P1.5 billion for the national broadband project.

■ Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) P500 million for its new building.

■ Philippine National Police’s (PNP) P300 million to train law enforcement officers in coordination with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

■ Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) P250 million to assist the creative industry pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11904.

■ Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) P150 million.

■ Office of Solicitor General’s (OSG) P147 million.

■ National Electrification Administration’s (NEA) P50 million for the barangay and sitio electrification program.

“What we did was allocate more budget to pro-people programs without the need to sacrifice our national programs and projects for job creation. We are confident that there will be no contentions with our amendments here,” Co said.

Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, expressed hope of clinching approval of the national budget before Christmas.

“Although there are disagreeing provisions, and I believe amounting to about P215 billion worth of increases in budget items, I think the House and the Senate will agree on these [items] because for the first time, we adopted the Medium Term Fiscal Framework under Eight Point Socio Economic Agenda of the President in considering these items,” added Quimbo.

The House leadership assigned the following as the chamber’s contingent to the bicameral conference committee: Co, Quimbo, Reps. Ralph Recto, Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Mannix Dalipe, Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos, Jay-Jay Suarez, Neptali Gonzales II, Joboy Aquino II, Raul Angelo Bongalon, Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Michael John Duavit, Marcelino Libanan and Edcel Lagman.

Senate contingent members are: Senators Sonny Angara, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos, Win Gatchalian, Bato Dela Rosa, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada.