THE Senate and the House of Representatives have ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the P5.268 trillion proposed national budget for fiscal year 2023.

Following the ratification by both chambers of the Congress on Monday, December 5, the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be submitted to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for approval and enactment into law.

House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said they assured that the final version of the 2023 GAB is one that best supports Marcos’ eight-point socio-economic agenda that include the following:

* Protect the purchasing power of families by ensuring food security, reducing transport and logistics costs, and reducing energy costs.

* Reduce vulnerability and mitigate scarring from the Covid-19 pandemic by tackling health, strengthening social protection, and addressing learning losses.

* Ensure sound macroeconomic fundamentals by improving bureaucratic efficiency and ensuring sound fiscal management.

* Create more jobs by promoting investments, improving infrastructure, and ensuring energy security, among others.

* Create quality jobs by increasing employability, encouraging research and development and innovation, and enhancing the digital economy.

* Create green jobs by pursuing a green and blue economy and establishing livable and sustainable communities.

* Uphold public order and safety, peace, and security.

* Ensure a level playing field by strengthening market competition and reducing barriers to entry and limits to entrepreneurship.

In the Senate, opposition Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros voted against the ratification of the consolidated version of the proposed budget.

Hontiveros said the 19th Congress missed an opportunity to assert its independence and failed to demonstrate its “power of the purse” following the restoration of the confidential and intelligence fund of some government agencies during the Bicameral Conference.

"It seems that the protection given to public funds has been dulled by granting in full all the requests for confidential and intelligence funds under the Marcos-Duterte administration. And worse, the legislature agreed to remove provisions that require Congressional reporting of the utilization plan and disbursement of the confidential and intelligence fund," she said.

Earlier, Senate finance panel chairperson Sonny Angara said among the provisions approved by the committee was the restoration of the P150 million confidential and intelligence funds of the Department of Education (DepEd), which was earlier brought down by the Senate to just P30 million, as well as the retention of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) budget to P10 billion in which the House slashed down to P5 billion due to poor accomplishments. (SunStar Philippines)