The General Appropriation Bill (GAB), containing the P5.768 trillion proposed national budget for 2024, reached the plenary on Tuesday, with Senate Finance Committee chairperson Sonny Angara sponsoring the measure.
Angara said the forthcoming budget will uphold the objectives of the previous one, ensuring continued funding for the government’s flagship programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Build Better More program, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act and the Tulong Trabaho Act.
“The avowed goals of this budget are no different from last year’s. If anything, in this proposal, we see more clearly the administration’s ideas on how to encourage growth, slash poverty, narrow the budget deficit and reduce debt, jumpstart the economy’s transformation, and finally cement our status as an upper middle-income nation,” said Angara in his sponsorship speech.
“The general aim is still to pursue the agenda for prosperity, framed by the eight-point socioeconomic agenda of the administration,” he said.
At least P4.302 trillion will be allocated to new appropriations, of which P4.2 trillion are programmed funds and P281.908 billion are unprogrammed.
Automatic appropriations amount to P1.748 trillion.
In line with the eight point economic agenda, Angara said the proposed budget allocated a P107.75 billion budget for the banner programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) targeted to ensure food security.
Some of these are programs for rice, corn, livestock, high value crops development, soil health, fisheries, agricultural research and development, and buffer stocking, among others.
Continued fuel assistance for fisherfolks and farmers is also being endorsed under the budget bill.
Angara also said the committee hopes the budget will help newly-minted DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. in fulfilling his mandate, especially with the rising prices of basic commodities.
Apart from the infrastructure programs of the Department of Transportation, the budget will also allocate funds for the fuel subsidy of public utility vehicles (PUVs).
The government’s service contracting program for PUV drivers first implemented during the coronavirus pandemic will also continue under the proposed budget with P1.3 billion worth of funding.
Meanwhile, the 2024 proposed budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) was increased by P3.5 billion to a total of P718.08 billion to further address the learning losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the country’s educational system.
Some programs for senior high school students (SHS) will likewise be funded under the budget including the SHS voucher program and the national certification of Grade 12 students who opted to take the Technical-Vocational-Livelihood track under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The budget for the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) and the Tulong Trabaho Fund will also be augmented.
To address the country’s shortage of healthcare workers, the budget for the 'Doktor para sa Bayan' program was augmented by P125 million.
Additional funding will also be directed to several health facilities in the country including the Bicol Regional Hospital and Medical Center, the National Children’s Hospital, the construction of a new hospital in Naga City, the completion of the Misamis Occidental Provincial Hospital, the construction of the Tagbilaran Mega Super Health Center, the equipment of Surigao Island Medical Center and of Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.
Further, the funding for the continued distribution of subsidies is enclosed in the proposed budget. This includes the P49.8 billion budget for the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens; and P56.3 billion funding for the Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances (AICS) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The Senate committee is likewise endorsing additional funding for the defense sector to enhance the country’s capabilities to safeguard national security, maintain territorial integrity, and uphold sovereignty.
The budget of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center will also be augmented to help the agency in coordinating and monitoring cybercrime plans and policies.—LDF, GMA Integrated News