MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Wednesday said institutional amendments amounting to PHP77.5 billion were included by the House of Representatives in the approved version of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to augment the budget for health, education, transportation, and other critical social services.

During the period of amendments preceding ratification of the 2023 GAB, Romualdez said the House augmented the budget of frontline agencies tasked to address the current economic, health, energy and environmental crises that burden millions of Filipinos.

These include PHP20.25 billion for various programs of the Department of Health such as Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (PHP13 billion); allowances for healthcare and non-healthcare workers and front-liners (PHP5 billion); additional funding for the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute and Philippine Children’s Medical Center Health (PHP500 million each); 10 dialysis assistance centers throughout the Philippines (PHP27 million each); and Cancer Assistance Program (PHP250million);

PHP500 million for UP-PGH; PHP10 billion for the Department of Education’s school building/classroom construction and PHP581 million for special education programs; PHP10 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways to construct water systems in underserved upland barangays; PHP12.5 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (PHP5 billion), upgrading the senior citizens’ pension through the National Commission of Senior Citizens, and for Sustainable Livelihood Program (PHP2.5 billion);

PHP5.5 billion for Department of Transportation programs to address the rising cost of fuel like the fuel subsidy program, Libreng Sakay and bike lane construction; PHP5 billion for the training and scholarship programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; PHP5 billion for the Commission on Higher Education’s Tulong Dunong Program; PHP5 billion for the livelihood and emergency employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment;

PHP1.5 billion for the national broadband project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology; PHP500 million for the Commission on Elections new building; PHP300 million for the Philippine National Police to train law enforcement officers to be conducted by the Department of Justice and National Prosecution Service; PHP250 million for the Department of Trade and Industry to assist the creative industry pursuant to Republic Act 11904; PHP150 million for the Energy Regulatory Commission; PHP147 million for the Office of the Solicitor General; and PHP50-million for the National Electrification Administration’s barangay and sitio electrification program.

“I’m pleased that the House-approved version of the General Appropriations Bill responds to the most urgent needs of Filipinos. We need to ensure that social services are sufficient for the greater good of our countrymen, especially those in dire need of basic social services to survive,” Romualdez said.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee chair Elizaldy Co said the bulk of additional allocation for institutional amendments introduced by the House in the 2023 GAB came from the deduction in programs and projects "whose budget may be allocated in succeeding fiscal years."

While the fiscal space is limited, he said his committee endeavored to free up appropriations from agencies whose funds are unlikely to be fully utilized within 2023, based on historical performance or specific circumstances of their spending program.

These include the PHP50 billion deducted from the Department of Transportation’s proposed budget for the Metro Manila Subway Project and North-South Railway Commuter for the year 2023.

“Hindi madali ang desisyong ito, ngunit ‘di rin makatwirang matulog ang pondo habang napakaraming pangangailangan ang milyun-milyong pamilyang Pilipino habang bumabangon ang bansa mula sa pandemya (This was not an easy decision to make, but it is also unreasonable for funds to remain idle while millions of Filipino families have so many needs while recovering from the pandemic),” Co said.

“The idea is to allocate more budget for pro-people programs and projects without the need of imposing new taxes. One thing is sure: all major infrastructure projects will proceed as scheduled based on a timetable that is implementable for 2023,” he said. (PNA)