The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the General Appropriations Bill containing the P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.

With 21 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstention, the budget measure was approved barely a week after the chamber ended debates and interpellation on the proposed appropriations for government agencies.

The Senate version adopted the realignment of at least P152 million worth of confidential funds of various government agencies to their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

The confidential funds that were realigned to MOOE are:

  • P100 million from the Department of Education
  • P5 million in the Department of Foreign Affairs
  • P19.2 million in the Department of Justice
  • P2 million in the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
  • P6 million in other executive offices
  • P20 million in Office of the Ombudsman

Senator Sonny Angara, finance committee chairperson and sponsor of the budget, said the realignment was in response to the questions raised on the necessity of the confidential fund for some agencies.

He said the realignment was done “all within the agency because we did not want to deprive the office of their budgets,” which were instead placed under MOOE.

The 2023 GAB was passed on second and third reading on the same day with amendments introducedby the the finance panel, Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Jinggoy Estrada.

Since the measure was earlier certified as urgent by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the Senate is allowed to approve the bill on second and third reading on the same day.

Also included in the committee amendments are:

  • Funding under the unprogrammed appropriations for the law providing P1,000 social pension for indigent senior citizens
  • National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund increased from P20 billion to P31 billion, including P1 billion for Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Fund
  • Allotment of P820.27 billion representing the National Tax Allotment that will be distributed among the local government units.

Angara said the bicameral conference committee meetings will start on Friday to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the House of Representatives and the Senate in their respective budget versions.

Assigned as members of the bicameral conference committee Angara, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Senators Pia Cayetano, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Mark Villar, Ronald dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, JV Ejercito, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada.—LDF, GMA Integrated News