ON TRACK. Senator Sonny Angara (left) delivers his introductory speech during the first bicameral conference on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill at the Manila Golf Club in Makati City on Friday (Nov. 25, 2022). The Senate and the House of Representatives eye the ratification of the 2023 budget before Christmas. (Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Sonny Angara)

MANILA – Senator Sonny Angara on Friday told fellow lawmakers that despite their amendments to the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), the Senate maintained the principles of the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF).

He likewise appreciated the efforts of the administration in creating the MTFF.

"I know the current administration worked overtime to place there the important programs, especially the ones that the president promised during the campaign like the increase funding for agriculture, the continuation of the ayuda (aid) in a more targeted form," Angara, the Finance committee chair, said in his opening statement at the bicameral conference with the House of Representatives (HRep) at Manila Golf Club in Makati City.

"I think, this is the first time any administration has passed a medium-term fiscal framework to guide us in the passage of the General Appropriations Act," he added.

Angara likewise thanked congressmen for giving the Senate enough leeway to discuss the 2023 GAB.

"You gave us efficient time so we're not rushing and I think, at least in my four years and during that of my predecessor, this is one of the earliest if I'm not mistaken, the earliest date we've met to hold the bicam," he said.

In 2021, the bicam convened on Dec. 6 and ratified the budget on Dec. 15.

This year, the bicam wants to ratify the measure before Congress begins its Christmas break on Dec. 17.

“We have sufficient time. We will finally approve the budget before yearend. It is the most important tool in accomplishing the objectives of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity and his eight-point socio-economic development plan,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement.

“Our effort is to act expediently on this matter, anchored with our overall objective of supporting the budget under the Agenda of Prosperity: Economic Transformation Towards Inclusivity and Sustainability of this Administration,” he added.

Romualdez said the 2023 GAB, as the first full-year spending measure proposed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., will “sustain or even accelerate our economic growth.”

The reconciled version of the budget will be a tool for recovery and growth, according to House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto.

“I am confident that the budget will be more responsive to both opportunities and challenges next year,” he said in another statement.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano urged the bicam committee to align the PHP5.268 trillion national budget for 2023 with the administration’s priorities and make it responsive to efforts to recover from the economic realities of the pandemic.

Dumaan sa matinding pagbubusisi ang GAB na ito sa Senado (This GAB went through a thorough scrutiny in the Senate). Our chairperson, Sonny Angara, and the Senate leadership did a good job,” he said in a statement, commending his colleagues for their hard work.

Aside from Angara and Cayetano, also part of the Senate in the bicam are Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Ronald Dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada.

The HRep passed the national budget for 2023 on Sept. 28 and the Senate on Wednesday.

The MTFF seeks to achieve a 6.5 to 7.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2022, and 6.5 to 8 percent annual GDP growth from 2023 to 2028; lower poverty rate to 9 percent by 2028; bring the government deficit down to 3 percent by 2028; achieve less than 60 percent debt-to-GDP ratio by 2025; and achieve upper middle-income status.

The MTFF was created along with the 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda that addresses food security and public health concerns, creates social protection programs, reduces the costs of transportation and energy, seeks return to 100 percent face-to-face classes, and enhances bureaucratic efficiency and sound fiscal management. (PNA)