Homestretch: House to approve P5.268-T budget bill on 3rd and final reading tomorrow

The House of Representatives expects to conclude on Wednesday night, Sept 28 the plenary debates on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) worth P5.268 trillion, after which they will immediately approve the measure on second and third reading.

The House plenary (PPAB)

"Tomorrow, we are expecting to wrap up the plenary debates for the 2023 national budget. It is the second stage of the budget process where Congress members dedicate another pair of eyes to review the proposed budget," Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo told reporters during the Ugnayan sa Batasan News Forum on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

As of Tuesday, only 14 agencies and constitutional bodies remained untackled in the plenary debates.

On Monday, the office of House Speaker Martin Romualdez confirmed that the GAB, also known as House Bill (HB) No.4488, had been certified as urgent by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

This certification allows the plenary to vote for a bill's passage on second reading, and then on third and final reading on the same day.

"It is vital that the President has certified the immediate enactment of the 2023 GAB. Usually, bills go through three independent readings on three separate days. With the President’s certification of urgency, mapapabilis ang proseso (the process will be hastened)," said Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations, which has been the main panel behind the #budgetprocess in the House. The process has entered its fifth week.

"This is why we can say with confidence that we are on track to pass the budget before Oct. 1. After this, Congress will transmit the GAB to the Senate, which will have its own version. A bicameral conference will also be done to consolidate the versions of each chamber," she said, detailing the path of the budget bill in the two-chamber legislature.

Once signed by the President, the GAB becomes the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

"The target is to pass the 2023 GAA by the end of this year to avoid having a re-enacted budget. Kapag re-enacted ang budget, hindi mapopondohan ang mga bagong proyekto at programa (If the budget gets reenacted, the new projects and programs won't get funded)," she noted.

The House is racing to give its final approval to the budget before Oct. 1, when both chambers of Congress are scheduled to start their month-long break.

"So far, our strategies in time management and maximizing communication channels between House members and agencies have been effective. As we conclude the second phase of the budget process in Congress, the commitment of the members to pass the GAB on time is still unwavering," Quimbo quoted Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, appropriations panel chairman, as saying.

"There may still be a lot of concerns that we need to address, but I believe that the members are anchored to the same vision of passing a budget that is aligned with the needs of the districts and the marginalized sectors.

"Rest assured po that we will pass the budget on time without compromising its quality. We will pass a 2023 budget that is geared towards economic recovery and inclusive prosperity," Co was further quoted.