MANILA - Voting 289-3-0, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on final reading House Bill 4488 or the proposed 2023 national budget of P5.268 trillion.
The House ended plenary deliberations on all agencies and major budget items, with the Office of the President, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Congress, Presidential Management Staff, Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Lump Sum Funds and General Principles rounding up the last day.
When all the debates were ended, the plenary session proceeded to the periods of amendments.
Although the Appropriations Committee submitted no amendments, the plenary session created a small committee composed of Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, House Appropriations Committee Chair Elizaldy Co and Senior Vice Chair Stella Luz Quimbo to receive and decide on the individual amendments of lawmakers.
The House proceeded to approve the bill on second reading via viva voce. It then voted to approve the bill on third and final reading.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. certified to the necessity of HB 4488 earlier this week which allowed the House to approve the bill on second and final reading on the same day, in compliance with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution.
Prior to approval, the House of Representatives' Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department noted that the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2023 is only about 4.9 percent (or P244.4 billion) higher than the current year’s spending level of P5,023.6 billion.
The CPBRD said primary expenditures continue to decline with growing debt service, stressing that debt service growth in 2023 is relatively high at 12.9 percent compared to the overall budget growth of only 4.9 percent. The same pattern is true for 2021 and 2022, it said.
As a result, the portion of the total national budget that goes to debt service has steadily increased from 9.7 percent in 2021 to 11.6 percent in 2023.
"With more of debt service eating up the national budget, the productive part of the budget which can be used to support NG operations and the implementation of programs and projects is also gradually reduced in share," the CPBRD said.
"Unless NG (national government) generates more revenues and relies less on borrowings to support higher spending levels, debt service particularly for interest payments will continue to limit productive expenditures. NG needs to grow its budget primarily to finance programs that continue to address the adverse socio-economic effects of the pandemic and to sustain economic recovery amidst the continuing COVID -19 threat and global uncertainties affecting food and fuel prices," it added.
CBRD said that the ECMD (Education, Culture, and Manpower Development (ECMD) still has the biggest share to total expenditures given the importance afforded to education under the Constitution, amounting to P904.9 billion in 2023.
"Higher expenditures for ECMD in 2023 is due to increases in the budget for Department of Education (DepEd, 12.2 percent) and the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF, 221.2 percent) under SPFs. Total MPBF under ECMD (amounting to P37.8 billion) can be used to cover the deficiencies in salaries and benefits of teachers and school workers and/or the filling and creation of positions with the return to face-to-face classes this school year," the CPBRD said.
BUDGET FOR HEALTH
Meantime, it explained that the proposed allocation for health in 2023 amounts to P308.3 billion which is P28.7 billion higher than in 2022 but still lower than the P316.6 billion actual spending of the sub-sector in 2021.
"The Department of Health (DOH) shall receive an allocation of P196.1 billion, which is 4.1 percent (P7.7 billion) higher than its 2022 programmed spending level. A sizeable increase for Health goes to Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)—i.e., an allocation of P100.2 billion which is P20.2 billion or 25.3 percent higher than the current year’s level. The MPBF under Health will also substantially increase by 221.2 percent to P2 billion—to cover the deficiencies in salaries and benefits of healthcare workers, as well as the filling and creation of authorized positions," the CPBRD said.
It pointed out that although Capital Outlay amounts to only P982.7 billion, the National Government reports a total of P1,196.0 billion or over P1 trillion for Infrastructure in 2023.
It also took note of the sustained infrastructure development spending of 5 percent-to-GDP ratio.
"Although Capital Outlay amounts to only P982.7 billion, the NG reports a total ofP1,196.0 billion for Infrastructure in 2023. It is only 1.5 percent or P18 billion higher compared to the current year’s level," the CPBRD said.
BUDGET FOR DPWH, DEPED
The CPBRD said the Department of Public Works and Highways and the DepEd remain the top recipients of the national budget as they have a combined budget share of 27.1 percent.
The DPWH's P718.4 billion is lower by P68.2 billion (8.7 percent) compared to the current year's level while the DepEd budget for 2023 amounts to P710.7 billion which is P77.3 billion (12.2 percent) higher than in 2022—with the increase attributable to increments for Support to School and Learners Program (SSLP), particularly for the Operation of Schools as public schools resume face-to-face classes.
The Department of Transportation posted the highest budget growth, increasing by 120.4 percent in 2023 to finance the Rail Transport Program with a total of P114 billion.
The CPBRD also noted substantial growth in budget allocation for agriculture and agrarian reform sub-sector which grew by 38.4 percent (or P55.6 billion) to P200.4 billion.
The CPBRD said that the total allocation for special purpose funds (SPFs) in 2023, meanwhile, amounts to a total of P2,189.5 billion, which is 6.3 percent higher than the current year’s level of P2,059.4 billion.
"Almost half (43.9 percent) of total SPFs are allocations to LGUs (ALGU) amounting to P962.2 billion. Even though there is a 14.5 percent (or P138.8 million) drop in the NTA/IRA due to lower collections in 2020, it is still the biggest contributor to ALGU with a budget of P820.3 billion in 2023. Note that the existing distribution formula of the NTA carries with it inherent inequities that will put some LGUs financially disadvantaged (especially in the light of new functions/services they have to assume)," the CPBRD explained.
The CPBRD said that over all, a large portion of the budget is concentrated in nationwide and central office spending.
"Among the major geographic clusters, NCR and Luzon (net of NCR) will get the highest allocation at 18.8 percent (P989.8 billion) and 18.1 percent (P954.5 billion) of the total budget, respectively. Mindanao regions will receive 11.9 percent (P628.7 billion) of the total while the Visayan regions will get a combined budget share of 8.3 percent (P437.6 billion)," it said.
"Meanwhile, the remaining 42.9% share or P2,257.4 billion are non-regionalized allocations, particularly lodged either under the Nationwide (NW) and Central Office (CO) funds. Note that the CO funds pertain to the allocation being managed by the Head Offices of the departments/agencies for their respective units."
The CPBRD said that next year, all three major island groups will have lower budget shares as compared to this year’s budget level.
"All the regions, with the exception of NCR, shall post lower budget allocations and shares next year. This may be attributed to the huge increase in the NW allocation which accounts for 35.5 percent of the proposed total budget (from 20.6 percent in 2022). Nonetheless, the budgets of regional offices are expected to be supplemented by funds to be downloaded from the NW budget during the budget execution," it said.
The CPBRD said that the proposed allocation under NW in 2023 is P1,868.7 billion, which is significantly higher by 80.4 percent than the current year’s level of P1,035.7 billion.
"This budget pertains to programs and projects that are centrally-managed such as the SPFs or those which are yet to be distributed to regions of the respective government units," it said.
Specific to the infrastructure budget of P1,196 billion for 2023, the CPBRD said that the non-regionalized infrastructure outlay (referring to allocations under NW and Central Office) corners about 92 percent or P1,099.9 billion of the total infrastructure budget in 2023.
"This is a huge spike from the non-regionalized share of 67.1 percent in 2022. The Central Office gets 76.8 percent (P918.7 billion) while Nationwide allocation accounts for 15.1 percent (P181.2 billion)," it said.
"All regions will have significantly reduced allocations for infrastructure in 2023 as more funds are concentrated at the Central Office. Except for BARMM, the infrastucture budget of the regions will decline by at least 52.8 percent (NCR) to as high as 94.5 percent (Region IV-A)."
"By major island groups, the infrastructure outlay/shares are as follows: Mindanao (P30.5 billion or 2.5 percent share), Luzon (P27.2 billion or 2.3 percent), and Visayas (P10.5 billion or 0.9 percent). NCR gets a separate 2.3 percent share equivalent to P27.9 billion allocation," the CPBRD said.
WHO VOTED AGAINST THE BILL
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro voted against the bill.
"This national budget banners the theme “Agenda for Prosperity” when in reality it is an “Agenda for Austerity,” as funds for social safety nets and social services were drastically cut," said Brosas.
"Ginipit ang mahihirap sa pambansang badyet na ito dahil hindi nilaanan ng pondo ang direktang ayuda sa mamamayan at kinaltasan pa ang mga mahahalagang programa ng DSWD at DOLE sa panahong hirap na hirap ang mamamayan sa taas-presyo, matinding krisis, pagbulusok ng piso at malawak na kawalan ng trabaho. Kahit yung short-term solutions ay kinaltasan – 50 percent budget cut sa AICS at 42 percent budget cut sa TUPAD."
"Mapanlinlang din ang 2023 national budget dahil bagama’t P5.268 trillion ang sinasabing expenditure program, sa totoo’y P5.86 trillion ang kabuuang pondong pwedeng gastusin ni Marcos Jr. sa susunod na taon dahil may P588.16 billion na unprogrammed appropriations na mistulang Marcosian pork. Pinakamalaking unprogrammed budget ito sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas na nasa kontrol ng ehekutibo," Brosas said.
"Tiniyak din ang mas malaking pondo para sa National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict o NTF-ELCAC na may kabuuang P13.39 billion na budget. Mr. Speaker, hindi ahensya ang NTF-ELCAC pero mas malaki pa ang pondo nito kaysa sa Department of Migrant Workers na P3 billion lang. Dapat na ilaan na lang sa direktang ayuda at tulong sa OFWs ang NTF-ELCAC budget kaysa gamitin na naman sa paglalagay sa panganib sa buhay at kaligtasan ng mamamayan," she added.
Manuel lamented that the allocation for the education sector is far from the ideal P1.424 trillion, or six percent of the GDP, based on UN standards.
"Kinakaharap din ng maraming kabataang estudyante ang magulong proseso ng panunumbalik ng face-to-face classes at mga kaakibat nitong gastos... Lip service lang ang sinasabi ng administrasyon na 'safe reopening of schools' dahil hindi ginagarantiya ng 2023 proposed budget na magiging ligtas, abot-kamay at de-kalidad ang balik-eskwela patungong full face-to-face classes na itinutulak na maisakatuparan ngayong taon," he said.
"Kakaltasan pa ang pondo para sa State Universities and Colleges, para sa libreng edukasyon, at para sa scholarships and subsidies for college students."
Funds for COVID-19 response are also inadequate contrary to the administration's claim about improving the monitoring and surveillance capacity of the country's health system, said Manuel.
"Tinitipid ang serbisyong pangkalusugan at iba pang basic social services dahil inuna ang pagbayad sa utang na ipinamana ng nakaraang administrasyon. Pinalobo pa ang lump sum funds, pork sa porma ng confidential and intelligence funds, at programadong pondo para sa Notorious Task Force - ELCAC," he said.
Castro complained that minority lawmakers were not granted sufficient time to scrutinize the bill.
"Idinahilan ang 'courtesy' at 'tradition' para palampasin ang agency budgets, na tila hindi nakasalalay ang bilyun-bilyong pera ng taumbayan, at tila hindi independiyente ang Kongreso sa Sangay Ehekutibo," she said in a statement to media.
"Ikalawa, palagiang sakit ng Kamarang ito ang pagpasa ng taunang badyet na manhid sa mga maigting na pangangailangan ng taumbayan. Hinihingan tayo ng otorisasyong gumastos ng ₱5.856 Trillion—dahil sa katotohanan ay palaging nagagastos ang mga nasa Unprogrammed Appropriations—ngunit napakaliit ng espasyo sa badyet na ito ng mga maralita, magsasaka, mangingisda, at maliliit na negosyo, manggagawa—kabilang na ang mga guro at iba pang manggagawa sa sektor ng edukasyonm," said Castro.
"Napakabigat na isyu nito: Kung sino ang pinanggagalingan ng mga buwis, kung sino ang pinagkukunan ng income taxes na mandatory at automatic, pati na rin ang samu’t saring consumption taxes gaya ng excise taxes sa mga produktong petrolyo, sila pa ang ginigipit."
"At ang sagot ng administrasyon sa tumitinding kagutuman, kahirapan, at diskuntento ng taumbayan: Mas pinatabang confidential at intelligence funds o black budget, generals’ pork na Barangay Development Program, pondong pang tokhang ng PNP, pondong pang gera ng AFP, at mga opisyal at ahensyang walang ginawa kundi maghasik ng disimpormasyon at red-tagging sa sinumang kritiko, miyembro ng oposisyon, at ordinaryong mamamayang naninindigan lamang para sa kalayaan at karapatan," the partylist lawmaker added.