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Monday, May 27, 2024

Bicam passes 2024 budget, CIFs still out

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The bicameral conference committee on Monday approved and adopted the final version of the bill containing the P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, which is expected to be signed into law by President Marcos before he leaves for Japan this weekend.

The consolidated version of the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) has no allocated confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for non-security agencies, Senate finance committee chairman Senator Sonny Angara said.

Of the total proposed budget, Angara said at least P9 billion or 0.02% was allocated for CIF in 2024.

The bicameral conference committee also adopted the special provision introduced by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, which bans the use of contingent funds to augment the CIFs of other agencies.

The final version of the 2024 budget gave importance to the country’s defense, according to Angara.

At least P9 billion in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) scrapped from the civilian agencies, including the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education (DepEd) were not restored during the bicameral conference committee yesterday at Makati Shrangri-la Hotel.

He also said no CIF was granted to the Department of Information and Technology (DICT), but the agency was given additional funding.

Angara described the 2024 budget as a “budget for growth to sustain our growth, a budget that will give hope since this is still a time of uncertainties.

Meanwhile, the House contingent was amenable to the provision that contingent fund should not be used for CIF.

But Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the House inserted a condition when this can be allowed if the President certified it as urgent.

Hontiveros said she has no objection to this as long as this will be done “under extreme circumstances.”

Rep. Zaldy Co of Ako-Bicol party-list group, chair of the House committee on appropriations, on Monday said he is pleased with the anti-inflation, pro-poor budget approved at the bicameral conference committee level.

Co said the key priorities of the P5.768 trillion budget for 2024 remain the same: education, healthcare, infrastructure, social services, social welfare and many others.

“Food, jobs, health, education and housing – these are the President’s legacy projects to be delivered through the 2024 budget and beyond,” Co stressed.

“But apart from regular budget items, we’re most proud of three legacy projects that President Marcos and Speaker Martin Romualdez hope to fulfill through this budget. These include Legacy Food Security,

Legacy Specialty Hospitals and Legacy Housing for the poor,” he said.

Co said the House contingent fought hard to keep budget provisions to boost food production to fight inflation, assistance to poor and near poor families as well as social and medical services.

“We’re also pleased with the removal of the controversial Confidential and Intelligence Funds which has been the source of corruption. Thanks to our Senate counterparts for supporting our stand to remove CIF and transfer the funds instead to agencies involved in national security,” he stressed.

To pursue Legacy Food Security, Co said Congress is allocating P10-billion to support rice farmers through irrigation, free seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs. Aside from job creation, the seed capital will ensure farmers’ income and lead to production of affordable and high quality local rice, he added.

Congress is also investing P60-billion for large scale irrigation projects like dams, water reservoirs and solar irrigation systems.

“Through this budget we will expand irrigation coverage to boost food production. This is in line with the President’s target for the Philippines to be a food exporter before the end of his term,” Co stressed.

Aside from rice and irrigation programs, he said Congress is allocating P25-billion to the Department of Agriculture to support other crops that the country produces.

Co said the construction of specialty hospitals that the President promised last year is continuing. Since the target is to finish these hospitals within 3 years, he said Congress again funded the following legacy hospital projects: Philippine General Hospital expansion (P1-billion); National Kidney Center’s 14-storey building (P1.5 billion); Philippine Children’s Medical Center (P1-billion); National Cancer Center (1-billion); Bicol Regional Medical Center (P1-billion) and other specialty hospitals in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna.

“Aside from building special healthcare facilities, government will continue to provide free, high quality medical care and medicines to Filipinos,” he said.

Meanwhile, Co said the AICS or Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations and 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program will continue to be funded by Congress so it can provide financial assistance to jobless Filipinos.

In the 2024 budget, Co said the House contingent introduced a new P60-billion program called AKAP or Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita Program. Under AKAP, some 12 million households who earn less than P23,000 per month shall be entitled to government financial support for the “near poor” – those with work but insufficient income.

Finally, Co said the 2024 budget will also cover the President’s Legacy Housing for the Poor project. The flagship program aims to fill the housing backlog by constructing housing projects with government subsidy.

Monthly amortization is only between P2,500 to P3,500 per unit, a far cry from similar housing projects of private developers with monthly amortizations of P15,000.

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