Senate ends plenary debates on P5.768-T 2024 national budget

The Senate on early Tuesday morning ended the plenary deliberations on the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget for 2024.

The session ended at 4:50 a.m. Tuesday.

Among the highlights of the Senate plenary deliberations are the dropping of the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education’s proposed confidential funds for 2024

Other agencies that also dropped their request for controversial funds were the Department of Finance (DOF) and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Meanwhile, the confidential funds of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice (DOJ) were decreased.

The Senate deliberated on the 2024 spending plan for nine days.

After the debates, the Senate finance committee, chaired by Senator Sonny Angara, will introduce amendments to the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

It will be followed by the second and third reading approval.

After which the Senate and the House of Representatives will meet at the bicameral conference to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of each chamber’s version of the proposed 2024 national budget.

Once reconciled, the final version of the GAB will be ratified in the House of Representatives and the Senate so it can be sent to Malacañang for the president’s review and approval.

Earlier during the hours-long plenary deliberation, senators reprimanded the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over an official’s remarks seeking a petition supposedly to be addressed to Senate Majority Joel Villanueva on the immediate passage of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill.

The Senate also realigned the DICT’s P300-million proposed confidential funds for 2024 to regular line-item budgets so the Commission on Audit (COA) can scrutinize the allocations.

Senators also called out Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) General Manager Cynthia Lagdameo Carrion for texting several senators and demanding that they prioritize her agency’s proposed 2024 budget.

The P5.768-trillion proposed budget for 2024 reflects a 9.5% increase from the 2023 appropriations, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Angara earlier said the forthcoming budget will uphold the objectives of the previous one, ensuring continued funding for the government’s flagship programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Build Better More program, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act and the Tulong Trabaho Act.

“The avowed goals of this budget are no different from last year’s. If anything, in this proposal, we see more clearly the administration’s ideas on how to encourage growth, slash poverty, narrow the budget deficit and reduce debt, jumpstart the economy’s transformation, and finally cement our status as an upper middle-income nation,” saidAngara in his sponsorship speech on November 7.

“The general aim is still to pursue the agenda for prosperity, framed by the eight-point socioeconomic agenda of the administration,” he said.

At least P4.302 trillion will be allocated to new appropriations, of which P4.2 trillion are programmed funds and P281.908 billion are unprogrammed. Automatic appropriations amount to P1.748 trillion.

Latest data available from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) show that the government’s fiscal balance posted a P551.7-billion shortfall in the first half of the year, 18.17% lower than the P674.2 billion fiscal gap in 2023.  — BAP/KBK, GMA Integrated News