Looking forward to early passage of 2024 nat’l budget

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The government may experience a merry Christmas this year as it prepares to face the challenges of the coming year.

Congress is eyeing the enactment of the ₱5.768-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or the proposed 2024 national budget before Christmas this year. 

“Our confidence is high because of our early submission to our brethren in the Senate. And I'm sure they will do everything in order to finish the budget so it may get signed by our beloved President before Christmas,” House Speaker Martin Romualdez said during the turnover to the Senate of the copy of the GAB for 2024. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was present at the turnover ceremony, also vowed that the upper chamber of Congress will pass the GAB this month. 

With this commitment, the government is now more or less assured it will run smoothly in 2024 according to Malacañang's National Expenditure Program (NEP), and not on a reenacted budget. 

The House of Representatives, which first scrutinized the NEP before it was transmitted to the Senate, passed the proposed 2024 national budget on third and final reading on Sept. 27. 

But the passage of the proposed budget was not a breeze. It was meticulously scrutinized.

In the end, ₱194.5 billion worth of realignments were made to fortify the country’s national security, shield Filipinos from the impacts of global inflation, and guarantee food security.

Among the largest items realigned were ₱33.282 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) Assistance to Individuals on Crisis Situations (AICS) Program, ₱30.3 billion for the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP), ₱25.5 billion for the system/ communal irrigation system, ₱20 billion for agri-business and marketing services-rice subsidy, ₱17.5 billion for the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and Government Internship Program (GIP), and ₱15 billion for solar-driven pump irrigation projects. Also realigned was ₱1.23 billion worth of confidential and intelligence funds proposed for civilian agencies, like the Department of Education and the Department of Information and Communications Technology. Instead these funds were appropriated for frontline agencies in charge of ensuring national security and protecting the country's territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea—the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Aquatic Fisheries and Resources (BFAR), among others.

With the proposed budget now in the Senate, it will be the turn of the Senate Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara to lead in scrutinizing the budget measure.

But after having been carefully pored over by the House, passage of the budget measure in the Senate may be a breeze.

While we join the nation in hoping for the early passage of the proposed budget for 2024, we also look forward to the Senate’s usual exercise of due diligence in legislative matters so the government will have a budget that fits the needs of all sectors.

Early passage of the budget measure is necessary to give President Marcos ample time to review it before signing it into law. In doing so, the government will have a ready budget at the start of 2024.