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Social infra, agri top 2024 budget

Spending plan handed to Congress

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is seeking to increase the funding for his administration’s infrastructure and agricultural programs next year, the P5.768-trillion spending plan for 2024 submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress shows.

In his budget message, the President said that under the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the “Build Better More” program would focus on social infrastructure.

“This program, which seeks to continue and expand the Golden Age of Infrastructure of the country, will receive a total of P1.418 trillion. This is equivalent to 5.3 percent of GDP (gross domestic product),” Marcos said.

TURNOVER. Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman (left) submits the 2024 National Expenditure Plan to Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, who promised next year’s proposed national budget would go through the House’s quick scrutiny, deliberation and approval.

This includes the public sector infrastructure budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), amounting to P176.4 billion and P801.2 billion respectively, he said.

“With Congress’s approval of the proposed FY 2024 national budget, we will be one step closer to achieving our transformative vision for the country, the Agenda for Prosperity,” the President said.

He added that further cooperation with the private sector and various government agencies would be a vital piece in building a “better future.”

Among the priority sectors in the 2024 national budget, the Department of Education has the highest allotted budget of P924.7 billion, followed by the DPWH with P822.2 billion.

The DOTr will double its previous budget to P214.3 billion, as part of the country’s plan to improve the transport system.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Migrant Workers would receive a combined budget of P40.5 billion, P7 billion lower than their allocation for 2023.

The departments and their allocations are as follows:

* Department of Education – P924.7 billion

* Department of Public Works and Highways – P822.2 billion

* Department of Health and PhilHealth – P306.1 billion

* Department of Interior and Local Government – P259.5 billion

* Department of Defense – P232.2 billion

* Department of Transportation – P214.3 billion

* Department of Social Welfare and Development – P209.9 billion

* Department of Agriculture (and attached corporations) and Department of Agrarian Reform – P181.4 billion

* Department of Justice – P57.8 billion

*Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Migrant Workers – P40.5 billion

President Marcos also set aside a P1 billion budget for the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Program to provide aid to around 12,000 Marawi siege victims.

A total of P20 billion has been allocated for the compensation and allowances of COVID-19 healthcare workers that would be used for health emergency allowances and compensation packages.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman submitted the 2024 National Expenditure Plan to Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, who promised that the House would act swiftly to scrutinize, deliberate, and approve the 2024 budget.

The 2024 NEP, equivalent to 21.7 percent of GDP, is 9.5 percent higher than the P5.268 trillion 2023 budget.

Anchored on the theme, “Agenda for Prosperity: Securing a Future-Proof and Sustainable Economy,” the proposed national budget is ed based on the 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda and will continue to support the goals of the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, Pangandaman said.

Significant budgetary support will be provided for social infrastructure development, which includes school buildings with P40.59 billion; hospitals and health centers with P15.31 billion; as well as water and power supply systems with a combined allocation of P9.01 billion.

A total of P543.45 billion has been earmarked for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is equivalent to 9.4 percent of the total proposed budget, exceeding the country’s commitment of 8 percent share under the Philippine Development Plan.

The bulk of climate change expenditures will be allocated for water-sufficiency projects worth P294.46 billion to benefit communities all over the country.

The Philippine Space Agency will be provided with P1.7 billion to better monitor the country’s land and marine resources, as well as terrestrial ecosystems, to ensure both agricultural productivity and environmental integrity. Of this allocation, P1.2 billion will be used for the Multispectral Unit for Land Assessment (MULA) Satellite Development’s second-year funding requirement.

The government will continue to provide financial assistance for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) amounting to P80.6 billion, which includes the Annual Block Grant of P70.5 billion, and P1 billion for the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Program.

Pangandaman said, “Every peso of the P5.768 trillion 2024 national budget was optimized so we can remain on track with our Agenda for Prosperity.”

“It is the administration’s fervent hope that this budget will continue to lay the groundwork for future-proofing the economy and making the country’s growth inclusive and sustainable, not just for the Filipinos of today, but also for the future generations,” she added.

Romualdez assured President Marcos and the nation that the House of Representatives would approve the proposed P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget before the October congressional break.

Romualdez also said the House would deliberate “in a very transparent manner and get the widest consensus” for the spending plan.

“We will make sure that every centavo of the national budget will be spent wisely and contribute to our goal of reigniting the fires of our economic forges,” he said.

He also said they would ensure that taxes go back to the people through government projects and programs.

Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, said his panel will begin deliberations on the budget next week.

“The committee will put its nose to the grindstone so that the House will be able to approve the budget on third reading before Congress adjourns on Sept. 30,” he said.

The DBM said it received proposals totaling P5.9 trillion, but reduced this “after careful evaluation.”

Of the proposed P5.768 trillion, P893.3 billion or 15.5 percent will go to general public services while P699.2 billion or 12.1 percent will go to servicing the debt burden. National defense will get P287.2 billion or 4.9 percent of the budget.

Some P2.183 trillion or 37 percent will go to social services, and P1.709 trillion, or 29.6 percent will go to economic services.

Co pledged to work overtime to meet the House’s internal deadlines while ensuring that every centavo is allotted precisely where needed.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said there are four areas that have to be considered in the congressional scrutiny of the 2024 national budget.

“Disasters, of the natural kind, have now graduated as a macroeconomic assumption. Typhoons do not only alter the lay of the land, they also disrupt the fiscal landscape, by causing damages that depress economic growth and incurring expenses required to repair them. Rebuilding damaged infrastructure, like a washed out road, is asset replacement; not creation of new assets,” Recto said in a statement.

“Debt is rising, and so is the money required to service it. COVID has retreated but like in any war, what follows is the arduous task of paying for the high cost of victory. Not all symptoms of long COVID are of the medical kind, the fiscal one is painful too. Taxes being pushed, despite their clever marketing, are basically debt-driven,” Recto added.

Recto stressed the need to look at agriculture spending, which he said “must be boosted, it must be targeted well, with expenditures linked to productivity outcomes.”

Similarly, “payroll, including pension” is another important topic.”

“This is the fastest growing expenditure class for two decades now. Reforms, with clear buy-in from stakeholders, must be rolled out. It is a political minefield that must be carefully tread but must be done. The cop-out of kicking the can down the road must end with this President,” he said.

Romualdez said the 2024 budget aims to improve agricultural production and bring down transportation costs.

“The national budget will provide increased allocations for the Department of Agriculture’s banner programs to boost the production of prime commodities such as rice, corn, and high-value crops, and fisheries among others. Higher investments will also be provided for the construction of more fish ports and farm-to-market roads all over the country,” Romualdez said.

To reduce transportation and logistics costs, Romualdez said the government is determined to maintain high investments in infrastructure through the administration’s Build Better More Program.

“As such, the bulk of the infrastructure budget will be allocated for physical infrastructure aimed at improving connectivity throughout the country through the construction of accessible road networks and railways. Significant funding support will also be provided for the construction of social infrastructure such as school buildings and health centers,” he said.

Romualdez said the proposed budget also includes increased funding for local government programs on agriculture, fisheries, digitalization, and infrastructure development.

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