Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has urged lawmakers to ensure that the P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 would “leave no Filipino behind” and ultimately benefit them and the entire country.
Cayetano made the call a day after the Senate and House of Representatives kicked off the bicameral conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House’s version on the budget.
“We need a national budget that leaves no Filipino behind. Walang iwanan dapat,” Cayetano said in a statement.
The senator said next year’s budget should make sure that growth is evenly distributed across the country, as he noticed that allocations in the budget have usually favored the National Capital Region (NCR) and other highly urbanized cities.
“We should make every effort to provide quality jobs all over the country and not just in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, and other urban centers. It’s time we replicate this growth in other regions,” he said.
He said he hopes next year’s General Appropriations would also give premium to those who are living in the provinces and regions.
“All Filipinos deserve the chance to live a full life no matter where they live,” Cayetano said.
“Equity is an essential element of unity. Equity is fairness. It is social justice. It is the key in providing opportunity for all Filipinos to fulfill their potential not just for themselves but for the benefit of the entire nation," he said.
"There is no equity if Metro Manila and highly urbanized cities are the ones that are always favored (in terms of the budget),” he added.
At the same time, Cayetano urged the government to make sure Filipinos in the provinces can have access to electricity, water supply, internet connection, education, thereby, making rural life “a real choice for a safe and comfortable life.”
The lawmaker pointed out many Filipinos took advantage of the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program of the previous Duterte administration at the height of the pandemic and returned to their respective hometown to start a new life with their families.
“Let’s not disappoint them. Let’s instead reward their commitment by pouring in the necessary funds so that jobs can be created in the regions,” he said.
Many Filipinos will be more willing to move to the countryside if they see the government seriously investing in water, electricity, internet connectivity, health, and education services across the country, as well as in agriculture and infrastructure, Cayetano pointed out.
“Projects like irrigation, farm-to-market roads, bridges, and others like these will pump-prime quality jobs in rural areas,” he said.
As a member of the Senate bicameral panel, Cayetano pledged to ensure a P50-billion funding for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), instead of the approved P40.842-billion, as “more irrigation means greater harvest, and greater harvest means better economy — and a better life — for the provinces.”
“Metro Manila is the political and financial capital of the Philippines, but this should not mean economic activity should be concentrated in the National Capital Region (NCR),” the senator stressed.