But slashes P152.67 million in intel funds from 4 departments, agencies
The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023 after cutting and realigning P152.67 million in confidential funds from several departments and government agencies.
House Bill 4488 or the general appropriations bill was immediately approved after its second reading with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and zero abstentions.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on finance and sponsor of the measure, said the largest realignment came from the proposed P150 million in confidential funds of the Department of Education, which was reduced to P50 million.
Other government agencies whose confidential funds were slashed and realigned to operating expenses were the Department of Foreign Affairs (P5 million), Department of Justice (P19.2 million), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P19.2 million), other executive offices (P6 million) and the Office of the Ombudsman (P20 million).
In his sponsorship speech, Angara described the 2023 budget as one that addresses the needs of the people post-pandemic, supports the goal of ensuring food security, reviving education and preparing the country for the impact of climate change.
“Under the 2023 budget, there will also be aid for our people but this will not be the same as previous aid in which almost all people were given cash. Now, only selected sectors will be given help and it is based on the weight of their need and the effects of the pandemic to them,” Angara said in Filipino.
Angara was referring to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Protective Services to Individuals in Crisis Situations, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Diisadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) and the Sustainable Livelihood Program.
He said that even if there has been a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the country, the 2023 budget will ensure that the government will still be able to respond to the continuing threats of the pandemic and that the health system is strengthened.
Support for Hthe Department of Health, Angara said, will also continue including different DOH-operated hospitals and the National Children’s Hospital with additional funding.
Funds was also allocated for the establishment of specialty hospitals in different regions of the country.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corpo., Angara noted, will receive a significant amount to support its benefit package improvement under the Universal Health Care Law.
He said members of the public transport sector, farmers, and fisherfolk will continue to receive fuel assistance.
Angara said scholarships for indigent students were also well funded as well as benefits for senior citizens.
Among the increases in the 2023 national budget is its calamity fund which was hiked from the P20 billion to P31 billion with P1 billion for the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Fund.
As part of the continuing efforts to decentralize and devolve several functions of the national government to the local government units, the 2023 budget will contain P820.27 billion which represents the National Tax Allotment, formerly known as the Internal Revenue Allotment.
The bicameral conference committee meetings for the 2023 budget bill is expected to start on Friday where the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will work to come up with a reconciled version of the General Appropriations Bills.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri assigned Senators Angara, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Ronald Dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, Alan Cayetano, Francis Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada as members of the Senate bicameral panel.
The Department of Budget and Management said the Senate’s approval of the budget bill was a milestone in ensuring the that the government’s programs and initiatives for 2023 can be realized.
Cuts to confidential funds were made during the period of amendments to the proposed budget.
Senator Risa Hontiveros recommended that the DepEd’s realigned confidential funds be moved to its Healthy Learners Institution Program under the Support-to-School.
Angara agreed to Hontiveros’ suggestion since no senators objected.
Nobody opposed this recommendation of Hontiveros and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III to include in the proposed national budget a special provision obligating government agencies with confidential funds to submit their work plans.