Manila – The Philippine Senate, on Tuesday, approved the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA), House of Representatives Bill 8980, amounting to PHP5.768 trillion. The bill received 21 affirmative votes, no negative votes, and one abstention.
According to Philippines News Agency, this move comes following President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s urgent certification of the measure. The certification aims to ensure uninterrupted government operations after the current fiscal year and to expedite funding for various programs, projects, and activities for Fiscal Year 2024.
In his sponsorship speech, Committee on Finance chairperson Senator Sonny Angara highlighted that the 2024 GAA mirrors the aspirations of President Marcos for a 'New Philippines,' with an emphasis on strengthening national defense and public safety. He outlined increases in the budgets of the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, National Bureau of Investigation, and Philippine Coast Guard.
Angara also pointed to significant increases in the budget for the Marawi Compensation Board and realignment in the Department of Agriculture's budget to enhance its programs. The Department of Education's budget was augmented for additional school buildings and scholarships for state universities and colleges.
There are also increases in the Tulong Trabaho Fund, Training for Work Scholarship Program, and various social welfare and employment programs. Healthcare commitments were reflected in increased budgets for medical and financial assistance, Health Facilities Enhancement Program, and the Lung Center of the Philippines.
Budgets for nutrition programs, purchase of drugs, medicines, and vaccines, and the Climate Change Commission were also maintained. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources received additional funding for marine stations.
The Senate considered emergency benefits and allowances for health care and non-health care workers and retained additional budgets for housing and disaster relief programs. Increases were also seen for the Department of Information and Communications Technology to boost internet connectivity, as well as for the construction of Offshore Wind Integration Port by the Energy Regulatory Commission.
Additional funds were allocated to the departments of trade, science and technology, tourism, and foreign affairs. The Senate also aimed to increase the national tax allotment for local government units.
Senator Angara, appointed as the chairperson of the Senate panel for the bicameral conference, will work with counterparts from the House to reconcile differences in the GAA. The bicameral conference is scheduled from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. The finalized bicameral report is expected to be signed by Dec. 6, prepared and enrolled as a bill from Dec. 7, and sent to the Department of Budget and Management by Dec. 15. President Marcos is expected to sign the bill on Dec. 16.