The Philippine Senate has given the green light to the government's P5.768 trillion budget for the fiscal year 2024, marking a 9.5% increase from the previous year's P5.268 trillion budget. The budget was passed with a unanimous vote of 21-0-1. This development paves the way for the impending signature of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., expected to take place in the first or second week of December.
Highlights of the Budget Approval
In a significant move, the Senate eliminated the P650 million in confidential funds earmarked for Vice President Sara Duterte, following a public backlash. The approval initiates the process for a bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. Post-reconciliation, the bill will return to both houses for ratification before being forwarded to Malacañang for Marcos’ signature.
Amendments to the Budget
The Senate made amendments to the House’s version of the General Appropriations Bill, with increased budget allocation for sectors like security, livelihood, education, among others. Notably, the education sector will witness augmented funds for various programs. Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno indicated that the president might sign the national budget prior to his Japan visit, scheduled between December 16 and 18.
Concerns Raised Post-Approval
Post-budget approval, Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed significant concerns about certain aspects of the budget. She emphasized the need for more transparency and accountability in the utilization of the budget, which, she worries, might not optimally cater to the needs of the Filipino people. Known for her vigilant stance on government spending and social justice, Hontiveros likely highlighted sectors like healthcare, education, social welfare, and public infrastructure, which are often under the microscope in national budgets. Her remarks underscore the necessity of careful scrutiny in funds allocation to ensure their effective and equitable utilization.