The House of Representatives will transmit the 2023 national budget bill to the Senate by early October if Malacañang submits the National Expenditures Program (NEP) a month after the State of the Nation Address, Speaker Martin Romualdez told Senate leaders Tuesday.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri spoke to Romualdez, who said he is confident that as long as congressmen receive the budget bill a month after the SONA –which is the required period under the Constitution – or by Aug. 25, the House could pass the measure in early October.
“They could then give it to the Senate,” said Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, adding that the timetable would give the upper chamber enough time to debate and scrutinize the measure.
This developed as Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the country can fund President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s plan to continue ongoing infrastructure projects and even expand the program, which he outlined in his first SONA on Monday.
Diokno, who chairs the Cabinet’s economic cluster, said this was possible thanks to an improved tax system inherited from the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The Duterte administration left this government a sound tax system, a much better tax system than he inherited from the previous administration, and we will enhance that tax system, that will give us more revenues,” the Finance chief said.
Diokno sat with Marcos’ economic managers on Tuesday for a post-SONA economic briefing at the PICC.
Among those in attendance for the panel were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medalla, National Economic Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan, and Department of Budget and Management chief Amenah Pangandaman.
In the Senate, Angara said: “We want to pass the bill on time… so that by January 1 we have a new budget, we have new programs in place.”
As in previous Congresses, he said senators will still conduct early hearings to expedite the scrutiny of the proposed budget.
Angara added there will be no “free ride” in terms of crafting the budget, saying: “Senators really scrutinize this, we even stretch late into nights.”
“We want to help the President and the way we can really help is by
passing a good budget,” he added.
Under the Constitution, the President must submit the proposed budget 30 days after the opening of Congress’ regular session. The Senate cannot act on budget and tax measures if they are not approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading.
Meanwhile, Diokno said the move to “right-size” the national government will also create efficiency gains by “doing more with less.”
Reforms such as the Amended Public Service Act, which can utilize Public-Private Partnership (PPP), can also ease the implementation of these projects.
Marcos said he would finish ongoing projects under the Department of Transport, such as the North-South Commuter Railway System, the 33-kilometer Metro Manila Subway Project, and the 147-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway System.
He also committed to finishing the 12-kilometer LRT-1 Cavite Extension, and the 23-kilometer MRT-7, and the Common Station that will connect LRT-1, MRT-3 and MRT-7, as well as the Mindanao Railway Project, the Panay Railway Project, and the Cebu railway system.
“There’s a lot of possibilities and the private sector is welcome to participate in this economic boom of the Philippines,” Diokno said, adding that investing in these projects will help open up more areas of the country to the economy.
“This is our moment; the Philippine economy can move much faster this time compared to other stages in our economy. A stronger economy means more revenues down the road,” he added.
The Finance chief earlier said the country can outgrow its massive debt, which ballooned during the pandemic.
“As the President said yesterday, the state of the economy is sound, so my advice to the private sector is to trust your government, we are behind you,” Diokno said.