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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Timely passage of 2023 ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ budget assured

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House and Senate leaders on Friday assured the public “we will have the Agenda for Prosperity national budget before the end of the year.”

Speaker Martin Romualdez assured that the House and the Senate has started reconciling their versions of the proposed P5.268-trillion 2023 spending bill through a bicameral conference committee (bicam).

The House had passed the proposed budget for next year based on the National Expenditure Program, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s version of the spending plan. The Senate approved its version this week.

Romualdez said the two chambers have enough time to come up with the final version of the budget before they start their Christmas recess on December 17.

“We have sufficient time, we will finally approve the budget before yearend. It is the most important tool in accomplishing the objectives of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity and his eight-point socio-economic development plan,” Romualdez said.

“With this budget, which is the first full-year spending measure proposed by the President, we hope to sustain or even accelerate our economic growth, which should benefit all of our people,” the Speaker said.

For his part, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara expressed confidence that the bicameral committee will reconcile the disagreeing provisions by next week. 

“Hopefully by next week, we will finish it and ratify it after next week,” said Angara in an interview. 

Angara said he hopes that the around P152.67-million lump sum allocations, including confidential funds, that were realigned by the Senate, will be approved by the bicam. 

For her part, House Committee on Appropriations Senior Vice Chairperson Stella Luz Quimbo said the bicameral committee would reconcile about P215 billion realignments on the 2023 national budget. 

Quimbo said lawmakers would adopt the Medium Term Fiscal Framework, which serve as the roadmap to steer the country back to its high-growth trajectory, in considering these amendments. 

The Senate added a total of P932.924 million 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 Senate also increased the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ budget by P720 million and the Philippine Space Agency budget by P200 million.

The upper chamber 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.

It 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 Development Council by P232.383 million; State Colleges and Universities (SUC) 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

The Senate hiked the budget of the SUC sector by P3.622 billion.

The Senate gave the University of the Philippines an increase of about P1.127 billion or 31 percent of the P3.622 budget added to the SUC sector.

With the P3.622 billion increase in the Senate-approved budget, the budget total for the SUC sector increased to a new total of P97.447 billion from the P93.825 billion figures in the House version of the budget.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co, who heads the House Committee on Appropriations, and Sen. Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, led the bicam panel.

“My fervent hope is that in the coming days, we arrive at a common and collective decision to reconcile our differences and harmonize them with the programs of the present Administration and balance them with the needs of our constituents,” Co said.

For his part, House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto expressed confidence that the budget will be more responsive to both opportunities and challenges next year.

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