Senate OKs P5.268-trillion 2023 budget on third reading

Voting 21-0-0, the Senate has approved its version of the P5.268-trillion national budget—the first of the Marcos administration’s appropriations measure—on third and final reading.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives will now take up the 2023 budget measure at the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences in their respective versions.

Members of the Senate who would be part of the bicameral panel are Senators Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher “Bong” Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada.

Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and sponsor of House Bill 4488, said next year’s general appropriations would address the needs of the people post-pandemic, supports the administration’s goal of ensuring food security, reviving education and preparing the country for the impacts of climate change, among other things.

“Sa ilalim ng 2023 budget ay magkakaroon pa din ng ayuda para sa ating mga kababayan pero hindi na ito tulad ng nakaraang ayuda kung saan ay halos lahat ng tao ay nabigyan ng pera (Under the 2023 budget, there will still be aid for our countrymen, but it will not be like the previous aid where almost everyone was given money),” Angara said.

“Ngayon pili na sektor na ang bibigyan ng tulong at naka base ito sa bigat ng pangangailangan at naging epekto ng pandemya sa kanila (Now the aid will be given to selected sectors and it is based on the severity of the need and the impact of the pandemic on them),” he said.

Angara said this includes the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Protective Services to Individuals in Crisis Situations, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) at ang Sustainable Livelihood Program.

The Senate finance panel also accommodated the proposed amendments pushed by Senate minority leader Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and deputy minority leader Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

All senators who were present voted yes in favor of the budget bill.

Upon Hontiveros’ proposal, the Senate agreed to realign the P120-million of the confidential funds of the Department of Education (DepEd) to the agency’s “Healthy Learners Institution Program.”

The Senate left a P30-million balance to the DepEd’s confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs).

Pimentel and Hontiveros earlier vowed to push for the deletion and or realignment of the DepEd’s P150-million and the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) P500-million CIFs. Both agencies are under the control of Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The Senate also made sure there is continuous support for the Department of Health’s (DOH) Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) and that different DOH-operated hospitals, including the National Children’s Hospital, would receive additional funding.

The Senate version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2023 also ensured sufficient funds for the establishment of specialty hospitals in different regions in the country; it also left sufficient funding to support the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Benefit Package Improvement under the Universal Health Care Law.

The Upper Chamber, under their version of the budget measure, also provided for the continuation of the subsidy for the public transportation sector, farmers and fisherfolk to help them cope with the rising prices of fuel.

The 2023 budget measure also provides funding for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Program, Senior High School Voucher Program, Education Service Contracting for Junior High School, Student Financial Assistance Programs, Joint Delivery Voucher for Senior High School Technical-Vocational-Livelihood Track and Private Education Student Financial Assistance program.

The bicameral conference committee meetings will commence on Friday, November 25.