‘Proactive, resilient’ 2023 budget now with House

THE House of Representatives on Monday received the “proactive and resilient” P5.268-trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2023, which lawmakers described as continuing booster shot to revitalize the economy.

Budget and Management Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said the first proposed national budget of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is designed to withstand future risks, challenges and shocks.

The proposed P5.268-trillion national budget, the highest ever if approved by Congress, is P244 billion more than this year’s P5.023.6-trillion spending program. It represents 22.1 of GDP.

Pangandaman said the proposed budget was formulated within the overarching theme “Agenda for Prosperity Economic Transformation Towards Inclusivity and Sustainability” to achieve a meaningful national development.

In his budget message, Marcos cited various challenges affecting the country’s economy, including the Covid-19-induced recession, typhoons, earthquakes and Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Aware of all these challenges, we must transform our economy from one that is reactive, where our people suffer the effects of economic shocks, to one that is proactive, where our people are prepared and our economy is spared. We must meet our productivity goals regardless of the disasters and crises that may come our way,” Marcos said.

DBM said the 2023 budget was formulated consistent with the cash budgeting system.

For 2023, the DBM said revenues are expected to grow by 10 percent year-on-year to P3.632.9 trillion, or 15.3 percent of GDP, while disbursements will increase by 2.6 percent to P5.085.8 trillion. The deficit, on the other hand, is expected to decline to P1.453.0 trillion, or 6.1 percent of GDP, from this year’s program of P1.650.5 trillion or 7.6 percent of GDP.

“We have identified the priority sectors in our 2023 National Expenditure Program, which stands at P5.268 trillion and 4.9 percent higher than this year’s budget. These priority sectors include education, infrastructure development, health, agriculture and social safety nets,” Pangandaman added.

The economic team earlier pointed out that the goal of the Marcos Administration is to achieve 6.5 to 8.0 percent real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth annually between 2023 and 2028 in order to attain a single-digit (9.0 percent) poverty rate by 2028.

Consistent with the 8-Point Socio-Economic Agenda of the Marcos administration, Pangandaman underscored the need to support identified priority sectors, and to sustain the growth momentum to make the economy inclusive and robust in 2023.

By sector, the social services gets the biggest chunk of the P5.268-trillion national budget with P2.071 trillion; followed by economic services with P1.528 trillion; general public services with P807.2 billion; debt burden with P611 billion and defense P250.7 billion.

Education top priority

As mandated by the Constitution, the education sector—composed of the Department of Education (DepEd), State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda)—will get 8.2 percent more next year at P852.8 billion and will remain as the highest budgetary priority.

The DepEd budget shall increase from P633.3 billion in 2022 to P710.6 billion in 2023.

“As the President said during his first SONA, we should not hold back on investing in education, as education is the only legacy we can leave our children that will never go to waste. This proves this administration’s commitment to invest in human capital development and youth empowerment,” Pangandaman said.

P1.196 trillion for infra

Meanwhile, Pangandaman said a total of P1.196 trillion was allocated for the government’s 2023 infrastructure programs.

The Department of Public Works and Highways will receive P718.4 billion budget in 2023, while the Department of Transportation gets P167.1 billion—120.4 percent more than its P75.8-billion budget in 2022, which covers the augmented funding requirements for foreign-assisted railway projects.

“President Marcos earlier said that this administration shall continue to implement infrastructure projects and refocus to Build Better More. These projects—subway, regional airports, railways and farm-to-market roads— will surely benefit the Filipino people,” Pangandaman said.

Major transportation infrastructure projects to be implemented include the North-South Commuter Railway, the Metro Manila Subway Phase 1, the LRT-1 Cavite Extension, and the PNR South Long Haul.

Health system

To ramp up vaccination efforts and the uptake of boosters for vulnerable populations while strengthening the health system through improvement of health facilities and services, the government’s health sector gets a 10.4-percent budget increase at P296.3 billion in 2023, inclusive of the budgets of the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

“Around P29 billion has been allocated to purchase drugs, medicine and vaccines while more than P19 billion has been allocated for the salary and benefits of healthcare workers,” she said.

P23 billion, meanwhile, was allotted for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), to fund the purchase of medical equipment as well as the construction, rehabilitation and upgrading of barangay health stations, rural health units, polyclinics, LGU hospitals, DOH hospitals, and health facilities nationwide.

Agri sector

To improve the performance of the agriculture sector, the DBM said the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA), its attached corporations, and the Department of Agrarian Reform will be P184.1 billion, a 39.2-percent increase from its 2022 allocation. The figure includes P29.5 billion for irrigation services.

The DBM said this is in line with the President’s directive that top priority must be given to the agriculture sector so as to invigorate and transform it from being an economic laggard to a main driver of growth and employment.

“In support of the mandate of our President, and in anticipation of a global food crisis and for the long-term goal of food self-sufficiency, we increased the budget of the DA by 43.9 percent, to cover the funding requirements for its programs and projects,” Pangandaman said.

Vulnerable sectors

To address the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society, the Department of Social Welfare and Development gets a P197-billion budget in 2023.

The government shall continue to fully support the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances, Sustainable Livelihood Program, and the Supplementary Feeding Program.

“Our budget provides for the implementation of the projects and programs of the DSWD. The President said it himself—we must not neglect the poorest of the poor,” Pangandaman said.

Meanwhile, P18.4 billion of the total P26.2-billion budget for the Department of Labor and Employment will be used for its Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, to help beneficiaries recover from economic displacement caused by the pandemic. This includes the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program, among others.

Also, the administration allocated P453.1 billion for climate change expenditures, where the DBM, in collaboration with the Climate Change Commission, developed a mechanism —the Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET)—to track and report climate change expenditures focused on food security, water sufficiency, ecosystem and environmental stability, human security, climate smart industries and services, knowledge and capacity development and sustainable energy.

In anticipation of destructive typhoons and other natural calamities, the budget of the Department of National Defense has been increased by 9 percent in 2023 at P240.7 billion. Meanwhile, P31 billion was allocated for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

Continuing booster

Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Monday said the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget is envisioned to pave the way for economic recovery in the first year of Marcos administration.

Romualdez described the proposed appropriations measure, spelled out in the NEP, as an exceptional fiscal program formulated to provide a continuing booster shot to revitalize an economy still feeling the ill effects of the pandemic.

“We welcome the submission of the proposed 2023 national budget that will provide the broad strokes needed to speed up our economic recovery,” Romualdez said.

“The House of the People will effectively respond to the needs of the people, and we will do our best to address the continued impact of the health crisis, create more jobs and ensure food security,” Romualdez added.

Romualdez, along with House leaders Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe, Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, House Committee on Appropriations chairman Rep. Zaldy Co and his senior vice chairperson, Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo, received the budget document from the DBM.

“And as the highest ever spending proposal ever to reach the halls of Congress, we will make sure that each bit of spending will contribute to our goal of reigniting the fires of our economic forges and at least propel the country to reach economic growth at pre-pandemic levels,” Romualdez said.

October 1 target

Romualdez said the House leadership is eyeing to finish committee and plenary deliberations on the budget proposal before October 1, or before the 19th Congress goes on its first recess that will last up to November 6.

“We will perform our constitutional mandate to scrutinize next year’s national budget,” he said.

Romualdez said the Committee on Appropriations will “hit the ground running” and start budget deliberations at the committee level on August 26. He is optimistic that the House can scrutinize, deliberate and pass a general appropriations bill before deadline.

“The passage of the 2023 national budget will be transparent. This will be a product of the entire House of Representatives where the majority will listen to the concerns of our friends from the minority bloc. In a manner of speaking, this will be a ‘Unity National Budget’ because we plan to get the widest consensus on our spending plan,” the Speaker said.

Dalipe said the House created 3 teams—composed of Deputy Majority Leaders and Assistant Majority Leaders—for the plenary deliberations on the budget.

“We are also closely coordinating with the committee on appropriations in order to facilitate our members who would want to fully discuss the budget.  Of course, we only have one thing to do and that is to pass this budget, the General Appropriations Bill. If there is any law that is required for us to act on and that is the General Appropriations Bill. We have prepared for this, we have arranged the teams and we will not be remiss in our job to properly scrutinize the budget,” he said.

Budget utilization

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said when it comes to public spending, the problem is not in budget authorization, or when Congress approves the budget, but in budget execution, when agencies spend the budget given to them.

“There should be no repeat of last year’s budget utilization rate, when P784.8 billion remained undisbursed by end of the year, on top of P88.8 billion in unreleased appropriations,” he said.

Recto said COA reports on procurement fiascos and huge unobligated amounts are a continuing indictment of the failure to obligate funds promptly and properly.

“The budget is supposed to be spent for the right purpose, at the right time, by the right agency, for the right price,” he added.

“That failure betrays the public because the tax-budget dynamic is that taxes paid by the people without disputing must be spent for projects that would benefit them without delay,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab assured that Congress will now buckle down to work upon receiving the proposed P5.268 trillion budget of the national government from the Office of the President, through the Department of Budget and Management.

“With Congress having the power of the purse, you can expect that we will diligently scrutinize the submitted budget and pass one that will be responsive and dynamic,” Ungab said.

Image credits: Robinson Ninal Jr./Malacañang Presidential Photographers Division via AP