MANILA — The House of Representatives on Wednesday said it has realigned about P77.5 billion in its version of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement that realignment, which he called “institutional amendments,” were included by the House to augment the budget for health, education, transportation and other critical social services.
Romualdez’s statement listed the following amendments which he said were supposedly included during the period of amendments preceding ratification of the 2023 GAB:
- P20.25 billion for various programs of the Department of Health
- P500 million for UP-PGH
- P10 billion for the Department of Education’s school building/classroom
- P581 million for DepEd special education programs
- P10 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways to construct water systems in underserved upland barangays
- P12.5 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development
- P5.5 billion for Department of Transportation programs to address the rising cost of fuel like the fuel subsidy program, Libreng Sakay and bike lane construction
- P5 billion for the training and scholarship programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
- P5 billion for the Commission on Higher Education’s Tulong Dunong Program
- P5 billion for the livelihood and emergency employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment
- P1.5 billion for the national broadband project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology
- P500 million for the Commission on Elections new building
- P300 million for the Philippine National Police to train law enforcement officers
- P250 million for the Department of Trade and Industry to assist the creative industry pursuant to Republic Act 11904
- P150 million for the Energy Regulatory Commission
- P147 million for the Office of the Solicitor General
- P50 million for the National Electrification Administration’s barangay and sitio electrification program
Prior to the approval on second and final reading last week of the budget bill, the House accepted no committee amendments from the House Appropriations Committee and created a Small Committee to accept and decide on amendments that will be submitted by individual members.
As the Legislature is barred by law from increasing the budget ceiling of P5.268 trillion, the House had to source the realignments from other items in the National Expenditure Program.
The press release did not state if the realignments also took away funds from controversial lump sums and surveillance funds which had been criticized by the opposition, such as the confidential and intelligence funds in the offices of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr and Vice President Sara Duterte.
Romualdez’s press release reported that the House Appropriations Committee sourced the realignments from items that will not likely be utilized in 2023 based on historical performance or specific circumstances.
“Hindi madali ang desisyong ito, ngunit ‘di rin makatwirang matulog ang pondo habang napakaraming pangangailangan ang milyun-milyong pamilyang Pilipino habang bumabangon ang bansa mula sa pandemya,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Elizaldy Co said in the same press release.
The statement cited Co in reporting that the bulk of the realignments came from deduction in programs and projects "whose budget may be allocated in succeeding fiscal years,” including the P50 billion deducted from the Department of Transportation’s proposed budget for the Metro Manila Subway Project and North-South Railway Commuter for year 2023.
“The idea is to allocate more budget for pro-people programs and projects without the need of imposing new taxes. One thing is sure: all major infrastructure projects will proceed as scheduled based on a timetable that is implementable for 2023,” Co explained.
Romualdez lauded the House Appropriations Committee for the swift approval of the budget.
“I’m pleased that the House-approved version of the General Appropriations Bill responds to the most urgent needs of Filipinos,” Romualdez stressed.