House budget schedule still on track after 2 urgent bills’ OK

THE leadership of the House of Representatives on Thursday said it will give its full and undivided attention to the final approval of the P5.268-trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2023.

House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe made a statement following the passage of two non-budget measures deemed urgent by the House leadership and the Marcos administration.

Last Tuesday, the lower chamber approved on third reading House Bill 4673 which seeks to defer the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections for one year.

Last Monday, the House also passed House Bill 14 mandating the registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) cards to lessen mobile phone-enabled criminal activities.

The House also passed on second reading House Bill 4125 or the proposed Ease of Paying Taxes Act, which seeks to simplify the process of tax payments.

“From now until next week, we can put our full and undivided attention to the approval of the NEP so that we can quickly move on to other equally urgent legislations. It is good that we have already passed the SIM card registration bill and the postponement of the barangay and SK elections,” Dalipe said.

Dalipe said the House is committed to finish the sponsorship and floor debates by Wednesday next week (September 28) and approve the budget on September 30.         

Dalipe said the rate of progress in the approval of the budget proposals of each government department has been very satisfactory and is within the timeline set by the House Committee on Rules.

Without any hitches, Dalipe said the House is expected to terminate the floor debates and make way for the period of amendments on Wednesday, September 28.

“We can work until the wee hours if needed. We want to expedite the approval of the NEP so that we can also attend to the other equally important measures. We have other priority bills which we intend to pass during the 19th Congress,” Dalipe said.

Already terminated for plenary debates  are the budget proposals for the following government agencies: Office of the Ombudsman; Mindanao Development Authority; Anti-Red Tape Authority; Commission on Elections; Commission on Human Rights, including Human Rights Violation Victims’ Memorial Commission; Department of Science and Technology, including Attached Agencies; Department of Justice, including Attached Agencies; Philippine Space Agency; Film Development Council of the Philippines; Optical Media Board; Philippine Racing Commission; Civil Service Commission, including Career Service Executive Board; Southern Philippines Development Authority; Development Academy of the Philippines; Cultural Center of the Philippines; Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority ; Cagayan Economic Zone Authority; Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan; Climate Change Commission; Philippine Center for Economic Development; Games and Amusements Board; Philippine Sports Commission; Bases Conversion and Development Authority; Commission on Filipinos Overseas; National Commission for Culture and the Arts; National Historical Commission of the Philippines; National Library of the Philippines; National Archives of the Philippines; Commission on the Filipino Language; Philippine Competition Commission; Commission on Higher Education; State Universities and Colleges (NCR, Regions I to CARAGA Region, CAR, BARMM) and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Also, the plenary has terminated discussions on the budget of the Judiciary, which includes the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the Lower Courts (SCLC), Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), the Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals (CA) and the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

The plenary also terminated the budget discussions on the Office of the Vice President.

Question

Meanwhile, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Thursday questioned the inequitable infrastructure budget for 2023 in Mindanao as 4 of 5 poorest regions are in the Southern Philippines.

Hataman made this assertion as he continued to push for more infrastructure funds for Mindanao in the proposed 2023 national budget in the ongoing plenary discussion on the budget measure, citing the regional poverty incidences in the war-ravaged island.

Hataman then called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives, especially those from Mindanao, to unite and work for the restoration of the infrastructure budget of Mindanao back to its 2022 levels.

Mindanao suffered a huge slash in infrastructure outlay, from P84.69 billion in 2022 to only P30.49 billion in 2023, or a whopping reduction of P54.2 billion—almost a 64-percent decrease from last year. The lawmaker is asking if the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) considered poverty incidence in formulating the proposed national budget.

According to Hataman, four out of the Top 5 poorest regions in the country as indicated by their poverty incidence come from Mindanao: BARMM, 45.8 percent; Caraga, 38.3 percent; Region 9, 37.4; Region 8, 36 percent; and Region 12, 34.1 percent.

“The question here is, how did the DBCC use these dat to craft the National Expenditure Program for 2023? Because I don’t know how we can help the mentioned regions,” Hataman told Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, a sponsor of a part of the proposed national budget.

Quimbo responded by saying that agencies have regional offices that send feedback on regional needs, such as data on the 4Ps program and other social welfare programs.

Hataman agreed that the 4Ps program helps address poverty incidence, but infrastructure projects provide jobs and income, especially in impoverished areas in many parts of Mindanao.

“All regions contribute to GDP. But the GDP contribution also depends on which ones have allocations [for infra], so those regions can draw private investments. For example, if your region is a mess or infrastructure is weak, definitely that has a relation to the private investments,” the Basilan legislator said.

Image credits: House of Representatives/Facebook