2nd bicam meeting on 2023 budget bill set

The second and most likely final Bicameral Conference Committee meeting between the House of Representatives and the Senate on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 will take place Monday, Dec. 5, the Manila Bulletin learned.


The site of the meeting will be the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City, the same as the first bicam meeting last Nov. 25.

The two chambers of Congress are racing against time to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of their respective versions of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) so they may send the enrolled copy of the measure to Malacañang for the President’s signature. To goal is to have the GAB enacted before the end of the year.

Dec. 14 is the last session date for 2022 for the House and Senate. They will have a five-week holiday break after that.

The bicam meetings between the House and Senate contingents are closed to the media. However, all indications showed that proceedings during first meeting went smoothly and was comprised mostly of pleasantries among the lawmakers.

But on Monday, the solons will have to decide if they will adopt the P77 billion worth of institutional amendments to the budget that had been proposed by the House.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez had earlier said that the proposed amendments--mostly budget realignments for government assistance or "ayuda" programs--were for "the benefit of the people".

We are confident that the Senate and the House bicam members will see eye-to-eye on this. Our objectives are the same: to pass a people’s budget that reflects President Marcos Jr.’s eight-point economic agenda that will help the country bounce back from the pandemic,” added Romualdez, who is Leyte’s 1st district congressman.

The sought amendments include P12.5 billion under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD), which is broken down into: Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations or AICS (P5 billion), upgrade of senior citizens’ pension through the National Commission of Senior Citizens (P5 billion), and Sustainable Livelihood Program (P2.5 billion).

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will also get an additional P5.5 billion for programs addressing the rising cost of fuel like the fuel subsidy program (P2.5 billion), Libreng Sakay (P2 billion) and bike lane construction (P1 billion); while the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will get P5 billion for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program (P3 billion) and livelihood programs (P2 billion), among others.

House Committee on Appropriations Senior Vice Chairperson and Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, a member of the bicam, has said that it's possible for Marcos to sign the GAB into law before Christmas.

But this would mostly depend on fast the House and Senate can get their work done on the budget measure.