MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on third and final reading the proposed PHP5.268 trillion national budget for 2023.

With 289 affirmative votes, three negative votes, and no abstention, the Chamber passed House Bill 4488, or the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which will be the first national budget to be enacted under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The House passed its version of the spending measure on the second and third reading on the same day following Marcos’ certification of urgency.

Earlier, President Marcos called for the swift passage of the proposed 2023 budget “in order to address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year, strengthen efforts to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, and support initiatives towards national economic recovery.”

Speaker Martin Romualdez lauded his colleagues for their valuable contributions in the swift passage of GAB and in ensuring that every centavo is spent wisely to implement the programs of the Marcos administration aimed at revitalizing the country's economy amid the lingering ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The expeditious passage of the proposed 2023 budget is the product of the collective effort of the entire House, in transparent and open proceedings where the majority accorded ample opportunity for the constructive inputs of our friends from the minority bloc,” Romualdez said.

He noted that the House-approved budget for 2023 remains consistent with the 8-point socio-economic agenda of the Marcos administration to achieve sustainable growth.

With the approval of the GAB, the House met its self-imposed deadline to terminate the deliberations on the proposed 2023 budget before the adjournment of the session from October 1 until November 6, 2022.

It took the House of Representatives barely six weeks to approve the GAB, from the time the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted the National Expenditure Program (NEP) on Aug. 22, 2022.

Earlier, the government’s economic team pointed out that the Marcos administration seeks to achieve 6.5 to 8.0 percent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth annually between 2023 to 2028 to attain a single-digit or 9.0 percent poverty rate by 2028.

Pursuant to such a goal, the PHP5.268-trillion NEP submitted by the DBM is 4.9 percent higher than the 2022 budget and puts top priority on education, infrastructure development, health, agriculture, and social safety nets.

Under the NEP, the education sector will receive an 8.2 percent increase next year at PHP852.8 billion and will remain with the highest budgetary priority as mandated by the Constitution.

The Department of Education increased from PHP633.3 billion in 2022 to PHP710.6 billion in 2023.

On the other hand, a total of PHP1.196 trillion has been allocated for the government’s 2023 infrastructure programs.

Meanwhile, the health sector shall receive a 10.4 percent budget increase at PHP296.3 billion in 2023, inclusive of the budgets of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

To improve its performance, the agriculture sector was allocated PHP184.1 billion, a 39.2 percent increase from its 2022 allocation. The total amount includes PHP29.5 billion for irrigation services.

These allocations are in line with the President’s directive that top priority must be given to agriculture to invigorate and transform this sector from being an economic laggard to one of the main drivers of growth and employment. (PNA)