THE upper and lower chamber of Congress approved on Monday, December 11, 2023, the bicameral conference committee report on the P5.768 trillion proposed national budget for fiscal year 2024.
Senator Sonny Angara, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance who led the panel from the upper chamber, said that under the approved final version of the 2024 General Appropriations Act, no civilian agencies will be given confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).
He said a total of P9 billion was allocated for CIF under the 2024 national budget particularly for government agencies in charge of security operations.
Angara said both chambers agreed to allocate additional funds for defense and national security.
“I think, in light of world events, 'yung 'di ba may gera sa Europa? May gera sa Middle East? Hindi naman sa gusto nating magka-gera dito pero gusto natin na handa tayo,” he said in a chance interview with reporters.
(I think, in light of world events, isn't there a war in Europe? Is there a war in the Middle East? It's not that we want a war here but we want to be ready.)
“I think that’s been going on for quite some time. So that’s just one reason to help our defense forces,” Angara added.
He said they also adopted the proposal of Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros prohibiting the use of contingent funds to augment the CIF’s of other agencies.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP) has been criticized over its P125 million confidential funds in 2022, despite it not being in the line budgeting of the agency during fiscal year 2023, which was spent in a span of just 11 days.
The said funds were part of the P221.4 million released by the Office of the President (OP), under its contingent fund, to the OVP on December 13, 2022.
The OVP and the Department of Education (DepEd), which are both under Vice President Sara Duterte, requested for P650 million CIF for the 2024 national budget but it was rejected.
Angara said they approved the proposed P10.645 billion budget for the Office of the President and P1.874 billion for the OVP.
He said they allocated additional funds to non-security agencies but there was no CIF.
For the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Congress allocated funds to combat cybercrime.
Angara said the biggest chunk of the 2024 national budget goes to education, health and assistance to Filipinos.
“It’s a budget for growth, to sustain our growth,” he said.
House Appropriations chairperson Elizaldy Co said they also allocated some P60 billion for the Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita Program, a new program of the administration for the around 12 million households earning P23,000 or less per month. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)