The bicameral committee of Congress approved the proposed P5.268-trillion budget for 2023 on Monday morning.
The said proposed budget includes the restored P150-million confidential and intelligence fund for the Department of Education (DepEd).
Senate finance panel chairperson Sonny Angara made the announcement after the second bicameral conference committee meeting.
"Naibalik po iyon pero iyong sa ibang ahensiya na tinapyasan ng Senado, hindi na po naibalik. Back to P150 million [ang confidential and intelligence fund of DepEd]," Angara said.
(That was restored but those of the other agencies which were removed by the Senate were not included.)
Angara was referring to the confidential and intelligence fund of the following agencies which were realigned by the Senate to the respective agencies' maintenance and other operating expenses:
- P5 million in the Department of Foreign Affairs;
- P19.2 million in the Department of Justice;
- P2 million in the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
- P6 million in other executive offices; and
- P20 million in Office of the Ombudsman.
“They (DepEd) said they need that budget, and we respected the wishes of the agency,” Angara said.
“On the part of the House leadership, we don’t want our youth to be recruited in criminal activities and go astray,” House appropriations panel chairperson Elizalde Co added in the same interview in justifying the P150 million confidential and intelligence fund of the DepEd.
Aside from the P150 million of confidential and intelligence fund under DepEd, the proposed 2023 national budget also allocated P500 million worth of confidential and intelligence fund under the Office of the Vice President Sara Duterte.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, for his part, expressed dismay over the development.
“That is disappointing. I will still need to get more details about the bicam report,” Pimentel said in a separate statement.
In addition, Angara said the P10 billion 2023 proposed budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which was reduced to P5 billion in the House version of the proposed budget was restored.
"It was restored to the original amount," Angara said.
Co, on the other hand, said the budget for NTF-ELCAC was restored on the condition that the fund will be used efficiently.
“It was restored, yes, but we have asked the agency to be efficient with it because as of 2022, only two percent of the budget was utilized. Sayang naman kasi nakakatulong in a lot of ways sa ating mga kababayan,” Co added.
Then-President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 70 dated December 4, 2018 which created the NTF-ELCAC under the Office of the President.
NTF-ELCAC's mandate is “to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the Whole-of-the Nation Approach for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict affected areas and vulnerable communities, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuits of the country's peace agenda.”
Angara said the bicam-approved proposed 2023 budget realigned funding to increase allocations for State Universities and Colleges, DepEd, infrastructure projects including bike lanes and specialty hospitals across the country, Libreng Sakay program, fuel subsidy, emergency employment, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis, Quick Response Fund, Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Govermment, and the Supreme Court.
Angara, however, said that allocations for foreign-assisted projects have been delegated to the unprogrammed fund which will only be funded once the foreign funding or loans materialize.
“While the 2023 budget is only 4% higher than the 2022 budget, that 4% increase is what we call productive spending because we will be spending it for education, infrastructure which would boost our economy and create jobs for our people,” Angara said.
Angara and Co, however, did not identify other budget items that were reduced to accommodate the above-mentioned increases.
Angara also said the proposed P5.268-trillion budget is expected to be ratified by the House of Representatives and the Senate within the day.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian earlier said the proposed budget for 2023 is targeted to be signed by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. before December 15. —KG/RSJ, GMA Integrated News