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The House has committed to pass the spending plan before Congress takes a month-long break on September 30

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed P5.768-trillion budget of the Marcos administration for fiscal year 2024 reached the House plenary on Tuesday, September 19, after nearly a month-long series of debates at the committee level.

The deliberations will last until next week, as the House commits to pass the spending plan before Congress takes a month-long break on September 30.

“The timely passage of this measure is not just an obligation but our solemn responsibility,” said House appropriations panel chairperson Zaldy Co.

Co sponsored House Bill No. 8980 on the floor, saying that the budget has a “special emphasis” on legacy specialty hospitals, housing for the poor, and food self-sufficiency.

SPONSOR. House appropriations chairman Zaldy Co delivers an opening speech as the chamber begins to tackle the proposed 2024 budget in the plenary. Rappler

“The key priorities of the 2024 General Appropriations Act are still education, healthcare, infrastructure, social services and social welfare and many others,” he said.

Here’s the breakdown of the budget allotted for priority sectors:

  • Public works: P822.2 billion (down from P894.2 billion in 2023)
  • Health: P306.1 billion (down from P314.7 billion in 2023)
  • Interior and local government: P259.5 billion (up from P253.2 billion in 2023)
  • Defense: P232.2 billion (up from P203.4 billion in 2023)
  • Transportation: P214.3 billion (up from P106 billion in 2023)
  • Social welfare: P209.9 billion (up from P199.5 billion in 2023)
  • Agriculture: P181.4 billion (up from P173.6 billion in 2023) 
  • Judiciary: P57.8 billion (up from P54.9 billion in 2023)
  • Labor: P40.5 billion (down from P47.1 billion in 2023)

The Marcos administration’s request for P10.1 billion in confidential and intelligence funds hurdled the appropriations committee last week.

Confidential and intelligence funds are much more difficult to audit, because they are exempted from standard procedures of the Commission on Audit.

The parliamentary courtesy extended by the House leadership to the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) sparked criticism, because it meant opposition lawmakers had no chance to interrogate Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Vice President Sara Duterte on the use of the secret funds.

It also turned out that the OVP’s confidential fund in 2022 came from the contingent fund of that year’s GAA, transferred to her office by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) upon approval of the OP.

Critics said the release was unconstitutional, since the power to appropriate public funds lies in Congress.

“Our plenary debates will last seven days. Many things can still happen,” House appropriations vice chairperson Stella Quimbo said on Monday, September 18, when asked whether there could still be changes to the request on confidential funds in the House. –

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