Senate gets House version of 2024 budget
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Saturday turned over to the Senate its version of the national government’s P5.768-trillion spending plan for 2024.
In a simple ceremony attended by leaders of both houses of Congress, Speaker Martin Romualdez said he was “proud” of House Bill No. 8980, which will eventually become the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2024 after it is examined and approved by the Senate.
Romualdez said the House of Representatives “remained steadfast in its commitment to timely, transparent budgeting, free from the shadows of pork barrel,” which has already been outlawed by the Supreme Court.“We meticulously scrutinize every peso, ensuring that it serves the welfare and aspirations of the nation and our people,” he said.
HB 8980 was approved with a vote of 296-3 and no abstentions on Sept. 27.
Under HB 8980, health, education, culture and manpower development, social security, welfare, and employment will get P2.183 trillion, or 37.9 percent of the total budget.
The House, Romualdez said, “made significant institutional and individual amendments to provide immediate relief and long-term solutions for this particular problem,” referring to the P194.5 billion in institutional amendments that included the reallocation of P1.23 billion in confidential funds.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri received the official copy of HB 8980 at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on behalf of the Senate and pledged to pass the 2024 GAA before the end of the year.
If Congress fails to have the 2024 GAA enacted (signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) before Dec. 31, the government will have to operate under the 2023 GAA, which will automatically be reenacted.
Ready by December
The last time the government operated under a reenacted budget was in 2019 when a leadership squabble rocked the House and prevented the passage of a new budget for four months.
But Zubiri said the Senate should be able to complete budget deliberations over the next four or five weeks.
“Our commitment is that we will pass it on time. We will finish deliberations by the first week of December. I believe it will be ready for the President’s signature by the second week of December at the latest,” he told House reporters in an interview.
Now that HB 8980 has been transmitted to the Senate, the smaller house will deliberate on the proposed national budget and the budget requests of government agencies and state corporations at the committee and plenary levels before passing it on final reading.
In previous years, both chambers usually conducted a bicameral conference committee hearing in early December to thresh out conflicting provisions of the budget bill before submitting it to Malacañang for the president’s approval or veto.
As with any other law passed by Congress, the President’s signature officially enacts a republic act or the Chief Executive may opt not to sign a bill and allow it to automatically lapse into law, if not expressly vetoed.