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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Zubiri: Koko free to question budget

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Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III is free to question the P5.7-trillion national budget before any court, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said. “Well, it’s his prerogative,” Zubiri added.

Pimentel declined to give any comments on the signing of the national budget, but noted that he will question it before the Supreme Court due to the P450 million allocation for “unprogrammed funds.” But Zubiri asserted that there is nothing unconstitutional in the national budget, adding that “unprogrammed funds” are part of budget requests.

President Marcos signed the P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024 which he described as a “battle plan in fighting poverty and combatting illiteracy.”

“Although it is teeming with numbers, this budget is more than a spreadsheet of amounts or a ledger of projects,” Mr. Marcos said during the signing ceremony at the Palace.

“Rather, it details our battle plan in fighting poverty and combatting illiteracy, in producing food and ending hunger, in protecting our homes, in securing our border, treating the sick, keeping our people healthy, creating jobs, and funding livelihood.” “In effect, we are signing the renewal of our annual social contract with taxpayers: that what they have paid faithfully will be rebated to them in full,” he added.

The 2024 national outlay, equivalent to 21.7 percent of the gross domestic product, is 9.5 percent higher than this year’s P5.268 trillion budget.

President Marcos said the approved budget would be utilized to transform the public’s lives for the better.

“In the end, every line in this budget when translated to projects — from roads, to schools, to hospitals — will transform our country for the better and the lives of our people for the better,” he said.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, for his part, said the House of Representatives is committed to continue funding the new P60-billion Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita (AKAP) program in 2025.

AKAP is part of almost P500 billion “ayuda” for at least 12 million poor and low-income families in 2024.

“We intend this to be a continuing program to help our people. Thus, it is critical that we should make it work in its first year of implementation,” Romualdez said.

“We just have to make sure that the beneficiaries are qualified under government criteria and the money reaches them on time and with sufficient safeguards in place,” he added.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, senior vice chair of the House committee on appropriations, said the budget will allow President Marcos to invest a fairly good deal in social protection, infrastructure, education and healthcare along with other priority programs to improve Filipino lives and energize growth across the country.

“With this pro-poor, pro-growth national budget plan for next year, the President will get closer to his vision of a prosperous and peaceful Philippines where nobody is left behind,” Villafuerte said.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, described next year’s capital outlay as “the best budget we have seen in years, with a good balance of social services, infrastructure development, and of course defense and security.”

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