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Monday, March 4, 2024

Senators OK 2024 budget on 3rd reading, now headed to bicam

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The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the bill containing the P5.768-trillion proposed national budget for 2024, which would be the largest in the country’s history.

The 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) garnered 21 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and one abstention from Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

The chamber passed the GAB on second and third reading within the same day as the measure was certified urgent by President Marcos.

Pimentel III abstained from voting due to his objection to the certification of the GAB as urgent—a similar concern which he raised last year.

Prior to the third reading approval, Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara, sponsor of the 2024 GAB, mentioned major amendments to the House of Representatives’ version, but he did not disclose the amounts that were involved.

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Meanwhile, President Marcos is expected to sign the national budget measure by the middle of December, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

“Malamang (most likely),” Diokno told Palace reporters when asked if Mr. Marcos would approve the 2024 budget before he leaves for Japan from Dec. 16 to 18.

“I was talking to a liaison officer, and the budget got approved (in the Senate), so they will go into conference committee by December 1st. There’s enough time before the President leaves,'” he added.

Mr. Marcos will participate in the ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation Commemorative Summit in Japan next month.

The House had approved the P5.768-trillion national budget on itsthird and final reading on Sept. 27, then the Senate received it on Nov. 4.

The bicameral conference committee will then meet to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the versions of the budget bill.

The Senate bicam panel is composed of Finance committee chair Angara and Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Ronald Dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, and Jinggoy Estrada.

After the bicam, the Senate and House will ratify the final version of the 2024 budget before it is submitted to the President for his signature.

Angara noted that “ultimately, the drive for a new Philippines needs to coincide with efforts to build a better, more transparent, and more responsive government” through the budget.

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