House leader calls 2023 GAB a 'very good budget' as bicam meetings end

The Bicameral Conference Committee hearings on the P5.268-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) have wrapped up, with the leader of the House of Representatives contingent calling the measure "a very good budget".

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co (Screenshot from YouTube live)

The approval of the bicam report took place Monday, Dec.5 at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City where Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co and Senator Sonny Angara led the delegates of the House and Senate, respectively, to their second and final bical meeting on the proposed 2023 national budget.

After delivering their respective opening remarks, Co and Angara proceeded to approving the bicam report, which included the realignments or institutional amendments that they agreed upon since the first bicam meeting last Nov. 25.

"We put up more funds...masyadong malaki ang idinagdag natin sa (we added a lot of funds)...and sa (in the) bicam, for social services, including government hospitals," Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said afterward in a chance interview.

"Yung sa education (As for education), not only the government schools, but the private schools can also be funded. And also yung TESDA (Technical Education Skills and Development Authority) and the other -- sa education, hospital and universities. Lahat (We covered everything), it's a very good budget," noted the Bicol lawmaker.

Earlier, House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Co, who chairs vowed to Filipinos that the lower chamber would seek during the bicam meetings augmentations on the proposed allocations of agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (Deped), and Department of Transportation (DOTr)--just to name a few--in a bid to improve the delivery of social services.

"So, you will see the promise of the President. We will build malalaking (big) hospital all over the country, which will be good for social services. Kasi yung mga first-class hospital dito sa Manila, hindi naman sila kayang pumunta sa provinces (The first-class hospitals here in Manila aren't accessible by those living in the provinces). So, we are going to fund it in a multi-year," the House leader further said.

Co also said that key projects and programs of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) like the fuel subsidy program, the construction of bike lanes, and the "Libreng Sakay" (free ride) program would all be funded next year.

Now that the bicam report has been approved, the P5.268-trillion GAB will be ratified separately by the House and Senate. The enrolled copy of the measure, signed by House and Senate officials, will then be sent to Malacañang for President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s signature.

Committee on Appropriations Senior Vice Chairperson and Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo had earlier said that it's possible for the GAB to be signed before Christmas