Funding for the increase in social pension for around four million indigent seniors in the 2023 national budget is still being finalized, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said Wednesday.
Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said they were still working on it because the bill for it was passed in June this year, but said it would be fully funded by the time the bicameral conference committee finishes its work.
The bicameral conference committee to reconcile the disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions of the national budget started Saturday.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte echoed Angara, saying he is hoping the budget panel would be able to realign outlays for certain state offices and programs to bankroll, among others, the Libreng Sakay free bus and train rides in Metro Manila along with the higher pension for indigent senior citizens next year.
Villafuerte made the statement as Speaker Martin G. Romualdez expressed confidence over the weekend that the Senate contingent to the bicam panel would support the House-proposed P77 billion worth of amendments to augment next year’s spending plan for transportation, safety nets, education, health, and other social services.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said they hope to have the final budget ready for signing by the President before Dec. 15.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano called on his colleagues in the bicameral conference committee to align the P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023 with the administration’s priorities and make it responsive to the country’s effort to recover from the economic realities of the pandemic.
Cayetano said given the current economic realities, including the rise in prices of basic goods as well as the limited fiscal space, the members of the conference committee need to have a mindset of aligning the 2023 budget with the priorities of the Marcos administration as laid out by the President in his first State of the Nation Address.
Cayetano said he will continue pushing for budgetary alignments raised by senators during the recent plenary debates that focus on agriculture and public infrastructure.
On irrigation, Cayetano noted that the P40.842 billion budget falls short of the P50 billion that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) had requested. He also pointed out that the budget for small-scale irrigation fell from P1.109 billion in 2022 to only P991.11 million in the 2023 budget.
The senator also said while the budget for farm-to-market roads increased from P7.485 billion in 2022 to P13.14 billion in 2023, the program still falls short when compared with what the country’s Asian neighbors are allotting for the same purpose.
“The government needs to sustain its free rides at the EDSA Carousel and also at LRT-2 for students next year, especially with the ever-increasing cost of living and when our schools have started switching to in-person classes from the virtual learning modes at the height of COVID-19,” he said.
“I am hoping likewise that at the end of the bicam talks, there would be realigned funds, too, for the government to double next year the monthly pension of some 4 million indigent elderly Filipinos from P500 to P1,000, as provided for in a new law,” added Villafuerte, president of the National Unity Party (NUP).