APPROVED. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday (Nov. 23, 2022) approves on third and final reading House Bill 4488 or the 2023 General Appropriations Bill with 21 affirmative votes, 0 negative votes, and 0 abstentions. (Screengrab from Senate Youtube channel) 

MANILA – The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading House Bill 4488 or the PHP5.268 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB), also known as the 2023 proposed national budget.

The measure was immediately approved after its second reading with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and zero abstentions.

Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance and sponsor of the measure, thanked his fellow senators for the support in passing the the 2023 GAB.

"To our colleagues, a very big word of gratitude to all of you that we're on schedule and we hope to have a new budget on time under the new administration," Angara said at the Senate plenary.

In his sponsorship speech, Angara described the 2023 budget measure as one that addresses the needs of the people post-pandemic, supports the goal of ensuring food security, reviving education and preparing the country for the impacts of climate change, among others.

Sa ilalim ng 2023 budget ay magkakaroon pa din ng ayuda para sa ating mga kababayan pero hindi na ito tulad ng nakaraang ayuda kung saan ay halos lahat ng tao ay nabigyan ng pera. Ngayon pili na sektor na ang bibigyan ng tulong at naka base ito sa bigat ng pangangailangan at naging epekto ng pandemya sa kanila (Under the 2023 budget, there will also be aid for our people but will not be the same from the previous aid wherein almost all people were given cash. Now, only selected sectors will be given help and it is based on the weight of their need and the effects of the pandemic to them),” the lawmaker said.

Angara was referring to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Protective Services to Individuals in Crisis Situations, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Diisadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) and the Sustainable Livelihood Program.

He assured that even there has been a decline in new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country, the 2023 budget will ensure that the government will still be able to respond to the continuing threats of the pandemic and that the health system is strengthened.

Support for Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health, Angara said, will also continue including different DOH-operated hospitals and the National Children’s Hospital with additional funding.

Funds were also allocated for the establishment of specialty hospitals in different regions of the country.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Angara noted, will receive a significant amount to support its Benefit Package Improvement under the Universal Health Care Law.

He said members of the public transport sector, farmers, and fisherfolk will continue to receive fuel assistance.

Angara said scholarships for indigent students were also well funded as well as benefits for senior citizens.

Among the increases in the 2023 national budget is its calamity fund which was hiked from the PHP20 billion to PHP31 billion with PHP1 billion for the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Fund.

As part of the continuing efforts to decentralize and devolve several functions of the national government to the local government units, the 2023 budget will contain PHP820.27 billion which represents the National Tax Allotment, formerly known as the Internal Revenue Allotment.

The bicameral conference committee meetings for the 2023 GAB is expected to start on Friday where the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will work to come up with a reconciled version of the General Appropriations Bills.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri assigned Senators Angara, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Bato Dela Rosa, Win Gatchalian, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada as members of the Senate Bicameral panel.

Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, for her part, expressed gratitude to the Senate for passing the budget on time.

“They have proved themselves to be true to their promise. The Senate’s approval of the GAB is a great milestone in ensuring the realization of the government’s programs and initiatives in 2023, especially in achieving the 8-point socioeconomic agenda of the Marcos Jr. administration,” she said. (with reports from Azer N. Parrocha/PNA)