The House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday said it is looking at more sources to accommodate government agencies’ requests for budget increases next year, as Speaker Martin G. Romualdez has committed to meet lawmakers’ self-imposed October 1 deadline to pass the national budget for 2023.
At a press briefing, panel vice chair and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said one of the possible sources to accommodate budget increases is to identify departments with low absorptive capacities.
Rep. Elizaldy Co of Ako-Bicol, who chairs the committee, said Quimbo has been especially methodical in reviewing the three-volume, 3,334-page National Expenditure Program for Fiscal Year 2023.
“We are on track. Every member of Congress is working double time attending and participating in the budget hearings. Our own committee vice-chairperson Stella Quimbo, together with other members of the committee, is helping me move the hearings forward and thoroughly go over the P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023,” Co told reporters.
The committee expects to finish the budget hearings by September 16 and start the plenary debates on September 21.
Among the 14 agencies that have briefed the committee are the Development Budget Coordination Committee, the Office of the President, and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources, and Tourism.
Quimbo said she did not want to give a premature statement “until such time as all (government) agencies have briefed the (appropriations) committee,” but shared the House leadership’s commitment to passing the money measure on time.
“With two more weeks of budget briefings, the appropriations committee, led by Chairperson Elizaldy Co, gladly shares that we are still on track with our target date to pass the GAB by October 1, 2022.
“Even before the budget hearings commenced, everyone took their tasks seriously by having clear communication lines with the agencies,” the Marikina solon said.
“Healthy exchanges between departments and members of Congress transpired during the said budget briefings. Among the agencies that briefed the Committee on Appropriations were the DBCC, DA, DOE, DILG, the DENR, DOT, and the Office of the President. Today, the hearing for the DSWD is underway,” Quimbo said.
She shared that thus far, the discussions in the budget briefings have revolved around some of the key spending priorities of the 2023 budget. These include the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program and the Total Electrification Program, among others.
Quimbo said that various issues had been raised with the different agencies throughout the hearings.
At Tuesday’s hearing of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) budget, Co said the increase in the budget of DSWD’s flagship assistance program next year will help lift the country’s poorest of the poor out of poverty, malnutrition, and lack of opportunity and education.
He said DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) addresses both the immediate need for social assistance and the strategic goal to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
The House appropriations panel head thanked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the 7.3-percent 4Ps’ budget increase from P107.7 billion that will have served 4.37 million households this year to P115.6 billion to reach 4.4 million households next year.
“We commend the President for increasing the support for 4Ps in 2023,” he said.
Co noted that DSWD’s role at the height of the pandemic was “immense and immeasurable.”
The DSWD’s various assistance programs allowed Filipinos to cope with the multiple and sometimes simultaneous crises brought about by lockdowns, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
Co enumerated the beneficiaries of DSWD programs: around 700,000 households that benefited from its disaster response program, 209,000 households that received emergency shelter assistance and cash for work, the 3.6 million individuals who benefited from its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations program, and the 3.7 million senior citizens who received social pensions.
“Your agency performance, at this time, needs not only praise and commendation but full support from the House of Representatives for all your programs and projects for the Fiscal Year 2023,” Co said.
Quimbo said the absorptive capacity of the agencies is a perennial challenge that needs to be addressed and budget execution must be monitored.
She also noted that devolution was a recurring issue, particularly in the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Lawmakers have shown concern regarding the capacity of LGUs (local government units) to absorb the devolved functions from national agencies, especially with a smaller NTA (national tax allotment) from last year,” she said.
She pointed out that digitalization is a common theme in the agencies’ plans to improve their overall operations.