MANILA – The House of Representatives is "on track" with its schedule to pass the proposed PHP5.27-trillion national spending budget for 2023 on the third and final reading by Oct. 1, a House leader said on Tuesday.
In a media briefing, Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, said as of Monday, 14 out of 34 agencies have briefed the chamber regarding their respective budget proposals.
Quimbo said the panel is expected to finish the budget hearings by September 16, while plenary deliberations are set to begin on Sept. 21.
"With two more weeks of budget briefings, the appropriations committee, led by Chairperson Elizaldy Co, gladly shares that we are still on track with our target date to pass the GAB (General Appropriations Bill) by October 1, 2022," she said.
She said the discussions in the budget briefings have revolved around some of the key spending priorities of the 2023 budget, including the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program and the Total Electrification Program, among others.
"Healthy exchanges between departments and members of Congress transpired during the said budget briefings," she said.
She noted that various issues had been raised with the different agencies throughout the hearings, most of which were requests for budget increases.
"Bagamat sinuportahan ito ng maraming kongresista, hindi pa clearly identified ang mga programang pwedeng pagkunan ng budget increases. Ayon sa Konstitusyon, hindi na pwedeng palitan ang budget ceiling na PHP5.268-T. Kaya’t kung tataasan ang halaga ng isang budget item, kelangan bawasan ang isa pang budget item (Although a lot of congressmen supported the proposed budget hikes, the programs that could be sources for the said budget increases were not yet clearly identified. According to the Constitution, the budget ceiling of PHP5.268 trillion cannot be changed. That's why if one budget item needs more funding, another budget item would be reduced)," Quimbo said.
She said the absorptive capacity of the agencies is a perennial challenge that needs to be addressed and budget execution must be monitored.
She also noted that devolution was a recurring issue, particularly in the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
"Lawmakers have shown concern regarding the capacity of LGUs (local government units) to absorb the devolved functions from national agencies, especially with a smaller NTA (national tax allotment) from last year," she said.
She pointed out that digitalization is a common theme in the agencies' plans to improve their overall operations.
At any rate, Quimbo said Congress still stands by its goal for the swift passage of the GAB to allow sufficient time for it to exercise its oversight functions.
"This way, we can ensure that the agencies will not only use their respective budgets for programs in alignment with the new administration’s 8-point socioeconomic agenda but will also be genuinely felt by the Filipino people who will benefit from their programs. Rest assured that we will continue to work harder to achieve these goals without compromising on producing a high-quality national budget aimed for prosperity," she said. (PNA)