Speaker hails swift passage as collective effort to push government legislative agenda
Voting 289 to 3, the House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on third and final reading the P5.268-trillion proposed national budget for 2023.
The approval of House Bill (HB) 448 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on second and third reading on the same day was made possible by a certification from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the urgent passage of the proposed budget for next year.
Speaker Martin Romualdez lauded his colleagues for their valuable contributions to the swift passage of the GAB and for ensuring that every centavo “is spent wisely to implement the programs of the Marcos administration aimed at revitalizing the country’s economy amid the lingering ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The expeditious passage of the proposed 2023 budget is the product of the collective effort of the entire House, in transparent and open proceedings where the majority accorded ample opportunity for the constructive inputs of our friends from the minority bloc,” Romualdez said.
He said the House-approved budget for 2023 remains consistent with the eight-point socio-economic agenda of the Marcos administration to achieve sustainable growth.
The Speaker took pride in the record accomplishment of the House of Representatives in the first 23 session days of the 19th Congress, which convened last July 25.
“We rolled up our sleeves and worked hand in hand to ensure collective and responsive action upon all pending bills and resolutions, including priority bills in the legislative agenda of our President,” he said.
“Our mission from Day One is clear: Help resuscitate the pandemic-battered economy and make economic transformation the main engine to uplift the lives of the Filipino people,” he said in remarks before the House adjourned its session for the first recess of Congress.
Romualdez said the House wrapped up its plenary budget deliberations in just seven days.
He expressed confidence that “our good senators will also act with dispatch in having this most important piece of legislation approved in order for both houses to ratify the budget bill in time for signature of the President before the end of the fiscal year.”
The President called for the swift passage of the 2023 budget “to address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year, strengthen efforts to respond more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, and support initiatives towards national economic recovery.”
With the approval of the GAB on final reading, the House met its self-imposed deadline to terminate the deliberations on the 2023 budget prior to the adjournment of its session from October 1 until November 6, 2022.
It took the House barely six weeks to approve the GAB, from the time the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted the National Expenditure Program (NEP) on August 22 to last night.
Romualdez acknowledged the crucial role of House Majority Leader and Rules Committee chair Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, and senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, and Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo in spearheading the passage of the 2023 budget.
He also lauded the deputies and various teams that managed the flow of deliberations in the plenary.
Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker called on Congress to restore the requested budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for its “Libreng Sakay” Service Contracting program and the proposed allocation of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to address its backlog on plate numbers.
During his interpellation on the proposed 2023 DOTr budget, AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee cited the need for the Libreng Sakay program, stating that scrapping it “during these challenging times would be a disservice to the millions of Filipino commuters who continue to benefit from the program.”
“The Libreng Sakay program extensively helps millions of our fellow Filipinos. I am aware that this is not a sustainable program for our riding public but rising oil prices have continued to exacerbate our existing transport crisis since the pandemic occurred,” Lee said.
“On top of that, the peso continues to weaken. A weaker peso leads to higher prices of goods and overall inflation. Once the cost of goods increases, ordinary citizens spend less on the necessities and food items,” Lee added.
The lawmaker from Sorsogon said he will introduce the amendments necessary to restore the P12 billion needed to continue the Libreng Sakay, reiterating that the program should continue at least until the end of 2023 for the benefit of the millions of commuters.
As of June 21, the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) reported the Libreng Sakay program has served a total of 203.6 million passengers.
Earlier, the administration’s economic team pointed out that the goal of the Marcos administration seeks to achieve 6.5 to 8.0 percent real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth annually between 2023 to 2028 to attain a single-digit or 9.0 percent poverty rate by 2028.
To hit the goal, the P5.268-trillion NEP submitted by the DBM is 4.9 percent higher than the 2022 budget and puts top priority on education, infrastructure development, health, agriculture, and social safety nets.
Under the NEP, the education sector will receive an 8.2 percent increase next year at P852.8-Billion and will remain with the highest budgetary priority as mandated by the Constitution.
The Department of Education’s budget was raised from P633.3 billion in 2022 to P710.6 billion in 2023.
A total of P1.196 trillion has been allocated for the government’s 2023 infrastructure programs.
The health sector shall receive a 10.4-percent budget increase at P296.3 billion in 2023, inclusive of the budgets of the Department of Health (DoH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth).
To improve its performance, the agriculture sector was allocated P184.1 billion, a 39.2 percent increase from its 2022 allocation.
The total amount includes P29.5 billion for irrigation services.
These allocations are in line with the President’s directive that top priority must be given to the agriculture sector to invigorate and transform it from being an economic laggard to one of the main drivers for growth and employment.