APPROVED. Sen. JV Ejercito (center) defends the 2023 budget of the Office of the Press Secretary during deliberations on Thursday (Nov. 10, 2022).  The agency thanked the Senate for approving its proposed PHP1.04 billion proposal. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) on Saturday expressed gratitude to the Senate for approving its proposed PHP1.04 billion budget for 2023.

In a Facebook post, the OPS thanked Congress for its efforts to ensure the swift passage of the proposed 2023 national budget to enable the Marcos administration to provide better services to Filipinos.

"Nagpapasalamat ang buong OPS sa House of Representatives at Senate of the Philippines para sa tuloy-tuloy na serbisyo para sa sambayanang Pilipino (The entire OPS is grateful to the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines for the unhampered service for the Filipino people)," the post read.

The House of Representatives approved the proposed OPS budget in September while the Senate gave its nod on Thursday.

OPS Undersecretaries Maria Pedroche, Eugene Henry Rodriguez, Edwin Cordevilla, Rowena Reformina, and Marlon Purificacion were among those who attended the deliberations on the proposed budget.

"Dumalo sa naturang hearing ang mga opisyal ng OPS at personal na nagpasalamat sa mga senador kabilang ang pangunahing sponsor ng proposed budget ng OPS na si Senador JV Ejercito (Several OPS officials attended the hearing and personally thanked the senators, including Senator JV Ejercito, the primary sponspor of the OPS' proposed budget)," the OPS said.

Under the 2023 spending plan, the OPS proper will get a total appropriation of PHP623.196 billion, or more than half of the proposed budget.

Around PHP623.196 billion will be given to the OPS' attached agencies and corporations, which include the APO Production Unit, Bureau of Broadcast Services, Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), National Printing Office, News and Information Bureau, and People's Television Network.

The OPS was ecstatic over the Senate's approval of the proposed PHP619.53 million budget for IBC.

The station was previously allotted zero budget by the Department of Budget of Management and employees feared closure or privatization.

"The lingering problem, which has been swept under the rug through the years, the unpaid retirement benefits of retirees from 2009 up to 2023 which amounted to P490 million," Ejercito said in defending the budget.

In a radio interview in September, IBC president Hexilon Alvarez said they have "outstanding obligations" to their employees and retirees and cannot meet the amount promised to them under their collective bargaining agreement.

Reestablished under Executive Order (EO) 2 inked by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on June 30, the OPS serves as the administration's lead communications arm tasked to ensure the effective delivery and dissemination of information related to the actions, policies, programs, official activities, and accomplishments of the executive branch.

The Senate is eyeing the approval of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill by the third week of November. (PNA)