(File photo)

MANILA – The absence of key members of the Cabinet will not delay the plenary deliberations of the House of Representatives on the proposed PHP5.268 trillion 2023 national budget, a ranking legislator said Monday.

This came as several Cabinet officials, particularly the country’s economic managers, accompanied President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on his trip to the United States to participate in the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

During the weekly news forum “Ugnayan sa Batasan,” House Deputy Majority Leader, Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin noted that by tradition, the House of Representatives usually defers plenary deliberations on the proposed budget of an agency whose head, or Secretary, is not present in the chamber.

“Be that as it may we don’t see any problem because the minority and the minority agreed -- even the independent minority -- that we will pursue deliberations of the proposed budget of the agencies whose Cabinet members are with the President in his official trip,” Garin said.

She said the lawmakers unanimously agreed on the significant opportunities for the country presented by the President during his participation in the UNGA and his interactions with business leaders and potential investors in the US.

“The United Nations General Assembly is a very important event. It’s actually an opportunity for the Philippines to showcase our plans and the direction in which our country is trying to achieve. So we must take advantage of it,” Garin said.

However, Garin stressed that the House of Representatives would not conclude deliberations on the proposed budget of any department until the concerned Cabinet secretary attends the proceedings.

“That could be easily tackled by next week,” Garin stressed.

Under this arrangement, Garin said the House will not waste any time and still provide ample opportunity for any member of the chamber who may want to ask questions or seek clarifications from a particular head of the agency.

The House remains committed to its original target to end the plenary deliberations on the proposed 2023 budget by Sept. 23, Garin said.

“The possibility of Congress, of course under the leadership of our Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, passing this measure on 2nd and 3rd reading before we go on a break is attainable,” she added.

Among the agencies whose budgets are expected to be tackled in Monday’s plenary deliberations in the House of Representatives include the National Economic Development Authority, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Elections, the Department of Science and Technology and its attached agencies, and other executive offices such as the Anti-Red Tape Authority and the Mindanao Development Authority.

In his sponsorship speech of the proposed 2023 budget, House Committee on Appropriations chairperson, AKO BICOL party-list Rep. Elizaldy S. Co called for the timely passage of the General Appropriations Bill to ensure the fulfilment of the administration's agenda for prosperity and economic transformation.

“In solidarity with the united front, we shall be able to deliver the necessary tools and resources with this budget, improve the lives of our constituents and uplift their hope for a better quality of life and future prosperity and advancement of the Filipino people,” he said.

For her part, House Appropriations Committee senior vice chair, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo noted that the proposed 2023 budget is an integral part of the Medium Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF) crafted, which seeks to grow our economy, stabilize prices, increase revenues, as well as manage and pay our debts.

She said the 2023 General Appropriations Bill amounting to PHP5.268 trillion focuses on growing vital sectors of the economy.

Among the major sectors accorded the highest budgetary priority include education, with funding of PHP852.8 billion, the health sector with PHP301 billion, agriculture and agrarian reform with PHP184.1 billion, and PHP512.2 billion for social protection, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program.

She also said the PHP1.196 trillion allocated for infrastructure development will boost physical and digital connectivity that would allow for greater mobility and smoother flow of goods and services and create a vibrant atmosphere to attract more investments and spur the growth of businesses.

“With more investments jobs are created, and with more and better jobs come prospects for growth. That is the blueprint of our economic recovery,” Quimbo said. (PNA)