House leaders have guaranteed the enactment of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 before the end of the current year, possibly even before Christmas.
“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,” House Speaker and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez said in a statement Friday, Nov. 25.
Friday was the first day of the Bicameral Conference Committee meeting on the disagreeing provisions of the House of Representatives and Senate's respective versions of the proposed 2023 national budget, also known as the General Appropriations Bill (GAB). The bicam meeting took place at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City.
One of the attendees to the bicam from the House, Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo, explained why the enactment of the GAB during this particular budget process might come earlier than in previous years.
This, despite the P215 billion worth of institutional amendments or realignments in the GAB that the House and the Senate must iron out before the harmonized budget measure is ratified and readied for President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s signature.
"Usually nagiging batas ito (GAB) before New Year. Pero this year, dahil maaga nga tayong nag-umpisa ng trabaho, ang aspiration is sana before Christmas (Usually this becomes a law before the New Year. But this year, the aspiration is have it enacted before Christmas since we were able to start work early)," said Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Bicam meetings from past years would start in the month of December.
"Although may mga disagreeing provisions and I believe amounting to P215 billion worth of increases budget items, sa tingin ko naman mabilis na makaka agree ang House at tsaka ang Senado dahil mayroon tayo for the first time, inadopt natin ang medium term fiscal framework (MMFF), na ito ang naglalaman ng eight points socio-economic agenda ng ating Pangulo (Although there are disagreeing provisions and I believe amounting to P215 billion worth of increases budget items, I believe the House and the Senate will quickly come to an agreement because, for the first time, we've adopted the which contains the eight-point socio-economic agenda of the President).
"So yan ang guiding rules ng House tsaka Senate. In the end, ang maipapasa natin na version ang siyang pinakamagandang magsusuporta dito sa ating agenda (So that will be the guiding rules of the House and the Senate. In the end, the version that we will pass will be the best one to support our agenda)," Quimbo explained.
In looking forward to the enactment of the 2023 GAB, 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."
Friday's bicam meeting, which represents the final phase of the budget process in Congress, ended just before noon.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th district Rep. Ralph Recto, who like Quimbo was part of the House contingent to the meeting, said, "I am confident that the budget will be more responsive to both opportunities and challenges next year.”
In his opening remarks at the meeting, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co reminded his fellow lawmakers that their task was to "act expediently" on passing the budget, while "anchored with our overall objective of supporting the budget under the Agenda of Prosperity: Economic Transformation Towards Inclusivity and Sustainability of this administration".
"We are still on the path of recovery from the lingering effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Admittedly, this pandemic transformed each of us in the way we think and create solutions to existing economic problems," he said.
"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 added.