Gov’t doubles funds for trains
Lawmakers’ scrutiny of the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024 got under way at the House of Representatives on Thursday as the Marcos administration doubled down on its push for increased spending on infrastructure projects, particularly transportation systems like railways.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said they intend to spend five weeks deliberating the bill, after which they expect to have a version they will transmit to the Senate.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the administration intends to spend P1.418 trillion on infrastructure, an amount representing about one-fourth of the proposed budget and 5.3 percent of the domestic economy.
Thus, the budget department more than doubled the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) allocation from P105.98 billion this year to P214.3 billion in 2024.
Rail transport prioritized
“This [DOTr budget] will prioritize physical connectivity infrastructure, such as road networks and railway systems, which will cover almost half or 43.5 percent of the [national] budget,” Pangandaman said.
The rail transport program will get 76.4 percent of the DOTr budget. Among DOTr projects are the North-South Commuter Railway System (P76.3 billion) from New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac to Calamba, Laguna; Metro Manila Subway Project Phase I (P68.4 billion), which will consist of 15 stations from Valenzuela City to Pasay City; LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension Project (P4.7 billion), which will add 11 kilometers to the existing railway system; Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Project (P3.1 billion), which will reconstruct the PNR South Main Line; and the MRT 3 Rehabilitation Project (P2.9 billion).
Also, Pangandaman said that in order to foster an enabling environment for social and economic transformation, the largest allocation, or 38 percent, of the proposed 2024 budget will go to the social services sector with P2.18 trillion to fund health and social and education-related services.
Pangandaman also ordered government agencies to submit by Sept. 15 their “catch-up plans” because of their slow use of their 2023 budgets.