December 7, 2022

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Senate begins plenary debates on national budget

4 min read

Volunteers pack aid packages for those affected by Typhoon Paeng on November 2nd. Senators want to increase the allocation for the Disaster Fund and the Emergency Relief Fund under the proposed 2023 state budget. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, reporter

CONGRESS IS ON WAY to ratify next year’s proposed 5.268 trillion pesos state budget before the Christmas break, officials said.

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said he doesn’t expect lengthy plenary debates on the Senate budget because “there’s really very little room” to make adjustments.

The 5.268 trillion pesos budget is 4.9% higher than this year’s budget and represents 22.2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

“I think it will be easy to prioritize and agree on the urgent matters that need immediate funding next year. As such, I am confident that consensus will be reached on the proposed changes to quickly approve the budget as planned,” he said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld.

Congress resumes session today, with the Senate beginning plenary debates on the proposed budget. The Senate expects to approve the proposed 2023 General Budget Act in third reading before the end of November.

A bicameral conference committee will then be formed to harmonize the wording of the House and Senate budget, to be sent to Malacañang for signature by the President by mid-December.

“One of our main priorities is the ratification of the state budget for next year to provide social safety nets for people and help them recover from the economic displacement caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019),” said the spokesman for the House of Representatives, Martin G. Romualdez made a statement.

The House of Representatives approved the budget proposal in September.

Mr Zubiri said senators would review budgets for infrastructure, education, health and agriculture as these are government’s priority areas.

The education sector, as mandated by the Constitution, has a proposed budget of P852.8 billion, up 8.2% year-on-year. The proposed budget for the agricultural sector is 184.1 billion pesos, while infrastructure spending is set at 1.196 trillion pesos.

Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said there should be fine-tuning of the Department’s budget for migrant workers because 2023 would be the first year of full operations.

“We also look forward to how the state budget will help provide employment opportunities and job security for Filipinos, which will include a review of the DoLEs and budgets of other agencies that will be involved in job creation and worker welfare.” , Mr. Villanueva said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld.

The Senate Majority Leader said he would increase funding for supplementary social security pensions for destitute seniors to help them cope with rising inflation.

Mr. Villanueva is also trying to fund “pioneering projects” such as the modernization of the Professional Regulation Commission and the Doctor Para sa Bayan program – the ideal ratio of 10 per 10,000.

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada told BusinessWorld in a Viber message that there should be more funding for agencies that support the film industry.

“I think there is also a need to provide additional funding for a number of very important FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines) programs such as the CreatePH Film Funding Program, which will encourage the production of quality films,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zubiri also reiterated his openness to raising the Disaster Fund and Emergency Relief Fund for 2023, especially in light of recent natural disasters.

“We will review and adjust where necessary the budget of our line departments to respond to the immediate needs of affected communities… and rehabilitation… We should strengthen the capacity of the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). and related agencies and local governments in disaster preparedness and response,” he added.

HOUSE PRIORITIES
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives said it hopes to approve up to 18 of the Marcos administration’s 30 priority bills before the session adjourns for the holiday.

“We will also expedite the passage of LEDAC (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) priority legislation, including bills including the e-Governance Act and the e-Government Act,” Mr. Romualdez said.

He said the House of Representatives will also pass legislation for the Medical Reserve Corps, the Virology Institute of the Philippines, National Disease Prevention Management, the Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and the National Service Training Program, as well as changes to the Build-Operate Approve transfer law. Toleration of unpaid amortization and interest on loans from beneficiaries of agrarian reform and valuation reform.

The House of Representatives also seeks passage of the Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), the Internet Transaction Act, the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE), the creation of the Department of Water Resources and the New Philippine Passport to Act, Waste-to-Energy, Magna Carta of Barangay Health Work and the National Government’s Rightsizing Program.

Mr. Romualdez said the House will also seek to approve the Philippine Seafarers’ Magna Carta and Budget Modernization Act ahead of the holiday. — with MCL Montecillo

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