Congress eyes 2023 budget approval before Christmas

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MANILA, Philippines – By the third week of November, the Senate will have approved the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri stated that when the 19th Congress reconvenes on Monday, they will continue deliberations on the proposed PHP5.268-trillion budget.

He anticipates that the bicameral approval will be completed by the second week of December.

“We expect to have two weeks of marathon plenary deliberations with the hard work and commitment of all our fellow senators, and hopefully we can have it approved on third reading in the Senate as early as the third week of November,” he said in a news release on Sunday.

Speaker Martin Romualdez of the House of Representatives stated that they intend to ratify the GAB and approve the remaining Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council-priority measures before the Christmas break begins on December 18.

Job creation, health, and economic recovery are among the priority sectors, according to Romualdez.

“Providing social safety nets for the people and assisting them in recovering from the economic displacement caused by Covid-19 is one of our top priorities.” “We will work harder to help our economy recover, with agriculture serving as the primary driver of growth and employment,” Romualdez said.

According to Zubiri, the subcommittees “carefully combed over our agencies’ programs and spending” even after the session ended on October 1 “to ensure that the 4.9 percent increase from this year’s budget is warranted, and is critical to the country’s continued recovery from the pandemic.”

“I am grateful to all of our hardworking senators for expertly guiding their respective subcommittees and keeping us on track with our budget deadline.” We expect to spend about two weeks in marathon plenary deliberations if everyone maintains the same work ethic and urgency, and we hope to be able to approve the budget as early as the third week of November,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III stated on radio that he and Senator Risa Hontiveros will be “friendly” during deliberations, despite continuing disagreements over intelligence and confidential funds.

He was referring to the President’s Office, the Vice President’s Office, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Public Works and Highways, to name a few.

If budgets are cut, Pimentel says funds can be reallocated to food production, senior citizen benefits, and housing.

Other issues

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe stated that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11934, also known as the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration law, are still being finalized.

“We look forward to an IRR that will embody the spirit of the law and provide the people with a defense in the fight against text scams and misinformation,” Poe said in a statement on Sunday. “The rules will kickstart our goal of providing secure and safe mobile phone use in the country while protecting the right to privacy.”

The government has 60 days from the date the law goes into effect on October 28 to develop the IRR.

The IRR will be promulgated by the National Telecommunications Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Privacy Commission, telecommunications companies (telcos), and major consumer groups.

As a prerequisite for activation, the law requires all mobile users to register their SIM card.

All existing SIM card holders must register with their telcos within 180 days of the law going into effect.

The DICT may extend registration for a period of 120 days, which can be done electronically via a platform or website.

Registration will be facilitated in remote areas with limited communication or internet access by relevant government agencies and telcos.

“The creation of the IRR not only emphasizes the importance of protecting the public from scams and misinformation. It also implies that registration will be made as easily and securely as possible “Poe stated.

Priority measures in the Lower House include the consolidation of the E-Governance and E-Government Act bills; the Medical Reserve Corps; the Virology Institute of the Philippines; National Disease Prevention Management; the Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the National Service Training Program; amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law; the condonation of unpaid amortization and interest on Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries’ Loans; Valuation Reform; Passive Income and Financing

The House of Representatives will also attempt to pass the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers and Budget Modernization bills by December 17th.

Source: PNA

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