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Speaker: House has 5 weeks to scrutinize 2024 budget

BUDGET HEARING STARTS. Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez delivers his opening remarks during the Development Budget Coordinating Committee meeting at the House of Representatives on Thursday, joined by (from left) Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe, and Appropriations Committee Vice Chairperson Stella Luz Quimbo. Ver Noveno

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday gave the House of Representatives five weeks to scrutinize and pass the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget, observing transparency and respect for the voice of the minority.

In his message during the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) briefing, Romualdez reiterated that the House will ensure every centavo of the proposed P5.768 trillion budget will be judiciously spent.

The Speaker expressed confidence the House will be able to pass the proposed 2024 budget on time, noting the Department of Budget and Management managed to submit it 20 days earlier than the constitutional deadline.

“I am confident that the House of Representatives will be able to deliberate and pass the national budget on time and transmit the same to the Senate. I can assure everyone that the House of Representatives will not take a break until and unless we have passed this very important legislation,” he added.

Given the five-week deadline, Romualdez exhorted all House members to actively participate in the budget deliberations.

Romualdez stressed that in its exercise of the power of the purse, it is the duty of the House to completely scrutinize the proposed 2024 national budget to ensure it would sustain the gains of the past year and support the priorities identified under the eight-point socioeconomic agenda and the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.

“The budget deliberations are a meticulous exercise that requires accuracy, objectivity, and most of all, transparency,” he said.

A briefing given by members of the administration’s economic team on the proposed budget marked the beginning of hearings on the budget proposal that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. submitted to Congress.

It was conducted by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Eli Remolona.

Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, vowed to comply with Romualdez’s directive to speed up the approval of the budget.

Co said his committee will judiciously deliberate on the money measure, citing “the pivotal responsibility” it holds.

The P5.768-trillion proposed budget is equivalent to 21.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is 9.5 percent higher than the 2023 national budget of P5.268 trillion.

Diokno updated the lawmakers on the government’s fiscal and revenue collection performances and presented sources of funding for the national budget.

The Secretary thanked the House for passing their versions of the priority reforms such as excise tax on single-use plastics (SUPs), Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform (RPVAR), value-added tax (VAT) on digital service providers, and ease of paying taxes.

He said tax revenue is projected to increase from P3.5 trillion in 2023 to P6.5 trillion in 2028, while non-tax revenues are expected to grow from P191 billion in 2023 to P184 billion in 2028. Pangandaman presented an overview of the national budget, which she said was optimized for ready-to-implement projects, programs, and activities that have to be executed within 2024.

By sector, Social Services will still have the largest share in the budget at P2.183 trillion or 37.9 percent. This is followed by Economic Services (P1.709 trillion or 29.6 percent), General Public Services (P893.3 billion or 15.5 percent), Debt Burden (P699.2 billion or 12.1 percent), and Defense (P282.7 billion or 4.9 percent).

Remolona presented the macroeconomic assumptions behind the proposed budget, along with the BSP’s assessment of the monetary and external sectors.

He said core inflation has remained high at 6.7 percent but has started to decline as a result of tightening monetary policy.

Balisacan provided an overview of the country’s progress according to the targets set in the PDP 2023-2028, as well as the strategies and priorities for 2024.

Strategies include ensuring food security, addressing learning losses, improving health, strengthening social protection, reducing transport, logistics, and energy cost, ensuring sound fiscal management, and enhancing bureaucratic efficiency.

Outside Congress, government workers held a picket to press for a salary increase, noting there was no mention of pay hikes for them in both the State of the Nation Address or the 2024 national budget.

Several minimum wage hike petitions are pending before regional wage boards. A proposed P150 national minimum wage increase was also proposed in both houses of Congress.

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