Bicam-approved budget bill to fund PBBM's legacy projects

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

December 11, 2023, 7:59 pm

MANILA – The proposed PHP5.768 trillion national budget for 2024 will finance three legacy projects of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. aimed at ensuring food security, quality health care, and affordable housing for Filipinos, chair of the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee Elizaldy Co said Monday.

Co said the House contingent fought hard to keep budget provisions to boost food production to fight inflation, assistance to poor and near-poor families, as well as social and medical services during the bicameral conference committee meeting on next year's spending plan.

“Pagkain, trabaho, kalusugan, edukasyon at pabahay – yan ang mga pamana ni Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr. na bibigyang katuparan sa pamamagitan ng pambansang budget sa 2024 at mga susunod na taon (Food, jobs, health, education, and housing – these are the President’s legacy projects to be delivered through the 2024 budget and beyond),” Co said.

“But apart from regular budget items, we’re most proud of three legacy projects that President Marcos and (House) Speaker Martin Romualdez hope to fulfill through this budget. These include Legacy Food Security, Legacy Specialty Hospitals, and Legacy Housing for the poor.”

The final version of the 2024 budget bill approved by the bicameral conference panel on Monday would promote pro-poor growth and ease the impact of inflation, he said, noting that it is still focused on education, health care, infrastructure, and social services, among many other areas.

Co said to pursue Legacy Food Security, Congress is allocating PHP10 billion to support rice farmers through irrigation, free seeds, fertilizers, and other farm inputs.

Aside from job creation, he said, the seed capital would ensure farmers’ income and lead to the production of affordable and high-quality local rice.

Congress is also investing PHP60 billion in large-scale irrigation projects, such as dams, water reservoirs, and solar irrigation systems.

“Through this budget, we will expand irrigation coverage to boost food production. This is in line with the President’s target for the Philippines to be a food exporter before the end of his term,” Co said.

About PHP25 billion will be allocated to the Department of Agriculture to support other crops that the country produces, he said.

Co, meanwhile, said in pursuit of the Legacy Specialty Hospitals, Congress would fund the following legacy hospital projects: Philippine General Hospital expansion, PHP1 billion; National Kidney Center’s 14-storey building, PHP1.5 billion; Philippine Children’s Medical Center, PHP1 billion; National Cancer Center, PHP1 billion; Bicol Regional Medical Center, PHP1 billion, and other specialty hospitals in Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna.

“Aside from building special health care facilities, government will continue to provide free, high-quality medical care and medicines to Filipinos,” he said.

Co said the 2024 budget would also cover the President’s Legacy Housing for the Poor project, which aims to fill the housing backlog by constructing housing projects with government subsidies.

He said monthly amortization is only between PHP2,500 and PHP3,500 per unit, a far cry from similar housing projects of private developers with monthly amortizations of PHP15,000.

The final version, he said, does not have any allocation of confidential and intelligence funds for non-security agencies.

“Natutuwa din kami na tuluyan nang natanggal ang kontrobersyal na Confidential and Intelligence Funds na mitsa ng korapsyon. Salamat sa aming Senate counterparts sa pagsuporta sa aming panukalang alisin ang CIF at ilipat sa mga ahensyang may kaugnayan sa national security (We are also pleased with the removal of the controversial Confidential and Intelligence Funds, a source of corruption. Thanks to our Senate counterparts for supporting our stand to remove the CIF and transfer the funds instead to agencies involved in national security),” Co said.

In the 2024 budget, he said, the House contingent also introduced a new PHP60 billion program called Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKAP).

Under AKAP, about 12 million households who earn less than PHP23,000 per month shall be entitled to government financial support.

“Ang programang ito ay para sa mga tinatawag na ‘near-poor’ – may trabaho ngunit hindi sapat ang kita (This program is for the near-poor, or those with jobs but do not earn enough),” he said. (PNA)