MANILA – The proposed 2024 national budget of the Office of the President (OP) amounting to PHP10.707 billion, along with the budget of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), has been approved at the committee level on Wednesday and is submitted for plenary debates.
Finance committee chair Senator Sonny Angara said the OP and PMS budgets were swiftly approved since there were no questions raised by other senators. The PMS is seeking a PHP883 million budget for next year.
"Alam niyo naman dito kapag walang nagtanong, then pasado 'yan (You know what we do here when no one asks, then it will pass). It happened in the case of the judiciary," Angara told reporters on the sidelines of the budget hearing.
Senators will get a chance to raise questions and recommendations when the proposed budget reaches the plenary, he added, in reply to the proposal of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III to reduce or remove the OP's allocation for confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).
Angara said the OP should be given its needed CIF amounting to PHP4.5 billion.
"Presidente 'yan eh, di ba? Gusto ba nating pilayan 'yung Presidente kapag sinabi niyang kailangan 'yan (It's the President, right? Do we want to incapacitate the President even if he said he needs it)? You know, there are many things, that even me as a senator, hindi ko alam 'yung alam niya kasi Presidente lang 'yung nakaka-receive ng intelligence [information] eh. Siya lang 'yung nakakaalam. Meron siyang alam na hindi natin alam, 'yan ang (I am not aware of what he is aware of because only the President receives intelligence information. He is the only one who knows. He knows something that we don't know, that's the) bottom line," he said.
In its budget presentation to the panel, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin asked for a "modest" increase for the OP's Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) which Angara said amounted to "just a few hundred million."
The proposed MOOE of the OP, amounting to PHP810.436 million, was attributed to the increase in the travel and representation-related expenses of the President for local engagements, foreign state and working visits as well as accommodation of visiting foreign state leaders, ministers and other dignitaries.
"The budget adjustment we seek also accommodates the logistical requirements of honoring invitations from foreign leaders to visit their countries as well as diplomatic initiatives which would yield job-creating investments that will hasten our post-pandemic economic recovery," Bersamin said.
"It is also the most opportune time to revive the implementation of necessary infrastructure works within the Palace complex that have been stalled due to the pandemic in support of the 'Build, Better, More' priority program of the President, as well as to safeguard the overall security of all those who work hard for the attainment of the objectives of the presidency taking into consideration the Philippine Green Building Code," he added.
The lifting of the pandemic restrictions allowed the President to hold in-person affairs, increasing his meetings and public engagements, Bersamin said. (PNA)