Bicam vows funding for Libreng Sakay, social aid, PhilHealth
MANILA, Philippines — Funds for crucial government projects like the free bus ride and social aid have been provided in the consolidated version of the proposed P5.268-trillion 2023 national budget, the bicameral conference committee assured on Monday.
According to Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co, chair of the House of Representatives Committee on appropriations, the panel assured that funds had been allocated to subsidize public transportation routes under the Libreng Sakay program, aside from specialty hospitals that are a priority of the administration.
Co said this after the bicameral conference committee approved the consolidated version of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
“We allocated funds for the Libreng Sakay; we added more in this bicam. And then, for the specialty hospitals, we’re going to build a bigger hospital of about 20 floors. So, you will see the promise of the President,” Co said in an ambush interview after the committee met at the Manila Golf and Country Club.
“We will build large hospitals all over the country, which will be good for social services. Because the first-class hospitals here in Manila are not easily accessible by those in the provinces. So, we are going to fund it in a multi-year,” he added.
Also, Co said the education sector got a boost despite the already higher proposed budget for 2023.
“For education, not only the government schools but the private schools can also be funded. And also the TESDA (Technical Education Skills and Development Authority) and other (programs) — for education, hospital, and universities. All in all, it’s a very good budget,” he added.
Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on finance, echoed Co’s statements, saying that funding for the state universities and colleges increased along with infrastructure projects and allocations for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“What got additional funding is the education budget, that’s the state university and colleges and also the Department of Education, then the infrastructure budget was also increased, then among the agencies, DOJ, DILG, Supreme Court and the Judiciary, that is what I remember,” Angara said.
“What got deductions was the special funds and the other foreign-assisted projects, we placed under the unprogrammed funds. Because under the unprogrammed funds, when it is under foreign funding, when the loan materializes, that is when we can put funding.,” he added.
No details were released on how much the funding for the said items increased. Still, the education sector initially got a P852 billion budget in the National Expenditures Program (NEP) submitted by the executive branch last August.
Libreng Sakay, which is crucial for commuters in Metro Manila and other provinces, was not originally not included in the NEP. It is still unclear where the funds were sourced from, considering that Congress go beyond the P5.268 trillion ceiling set by the NEP.
Co also said that around P10 billion was allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to hasten rehabilitation programs concerning the damage brought by the recent typhoons.
“And now with the recent typhoon. So, we allocated P10 billion so that construction works can be done immediately by the DPWH since they act fast. We’ve been receiving complaints that there are delays in implementation so we put an additional P10 billion for the repair of school buildings and all the bridges damaged by the calamities,” he added.
Earlier, House Speaker and Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez expressed confidence that the upcoming approval of the General Appropriations Bill will be key to sustaining the country’s economic growth, as it backs the socioeconomic program of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration.
Romualdez also vowed to ratify the budget before Congress goes on a recess by December 17.
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