President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expected to sign the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 into law by December 15, Speaker Martin Romualdez said Wednesday.
“We have ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the national budget, which should be ready for signing… for the signature of the President after he returns from his trip to Brussels [in Belgium],” Romualdez told reporters.
“We acted on it with dispatch. We have done our jobs, and we are of hope that this will help in our country’s success and the President’s agenda of prosperity for all,” he added.
Marcos will be in Brussels from December 11 to 15 for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-European Union Summit.
Congress on Monday ratified the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 after it was approved by the bicameral conference committee in the morning.
The bicam panel also restored the P150 million in confidential funds of the Department of Education (DepEd), which was cut by P120 million in the Senate version of next year’s national capital outlay.
Romualdez, who presided over the Monday session at the House of Representatives, announced the bicam report as duly ratified after holding a voice vote. The affirmative votes won overwhelmingly.
The Senate ratified the same document at past 7:30 p.m. during its own session in plenary, after Deputy Majority Leader Joel Villanueva moved to ratify next year’s capital outlay.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri announced the budget’s ratification, which was opposed by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Assistant Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros.
Senate finance panel chairperson Juan Edgardo Angara made the announcement after the closing of the bicameral meeting held at the Manila Golf Club in Makati Monday morning.
“We have returned the money slashed by the Senate from some (government) agencies, but not those from other agencies,” he said, specifically citing the P150 million confidential fund of the DepEd.
In the Senate, Hontiveros had proposed cutting the agency’s confidential funds and transferring it to the healthy learning institution program, a move her colleagues approved.
But she said: “Today, the 19th Congress missed an opportunity to show its independence. We failed to demonstrate that we do hold the power of the purse.”
But Angara said the DepEd said they needed the budget and “we respected the wishes of the agency,” which is headed by Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Pimentel confronted Angara on the bicam increasing by P219 million the unprogrammed appropriations in the national budget and expressed dismay over the development.
“That is disappointing. I will still need to get more details about the bicam report,” he said.
Another Senate act – reducing the budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) — was also undone in the bicameral session, with the agency’s budget being restored to the original amount.
The chairman of the House committee on appropriations on Tuesday used the communist threat to justify restoring P10 billion in the budget of the controversial NTF-ELCAC, as well as the confidential intelligence funds (CIF) of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Ako-Bicol Rep. Zaldy Co said the decision of the House to restore DepEd’s CIF—which the Senate had removed—aims to “secure the future” of Filipino children.