Philippine national budget

2023 budget to prepare PH for post-pandemic, disasters, global economy

Michelle Abad
2023 budget to prepare PH for post-pandemic, disasters, global economy

BUDGET SPONSORSHIP. Senator Sonny Angara sponsors the 2023 General Appropriations Bill at the Senate plenary on November 8, 2022.

Senate of the Philippines

The Senate is set to begin debates on the proposed 2023 budget on November 9

MANILA, Philippines – The first full annual budget of the Marcos administration is eyed to be one that will prepare the Philippines to be resilient as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, deals with more natural calamities, and survives through the instability of the global economy, according to the budget bill’s Senate sponsor.

In sponsoring the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in the Senate plenary on Tuesday, November 8, Senate finance committee chair Senator Sonny Angara said that the budget was “not simply a spreadsheet” but a plan toward “development and prosperity.”

The proposed 2023 budget, which the House of Representatives approved on September 28, is pegged at P5.268 trillion. Of this, P1.5979 trillion is for automatic appropriations.

Congress will debate on P4.259 trillion of the budget, which includes P3.671 trillion for programmed new appropriations and P588 billion unprogrammed funds.

“Kaya, kung bibilangin natin – ilang daan ba ang magagawa, mga patabang maibibigay, mga patrol ng pulis na made-deploy, mga kaso sa korte na matatapos, mga scholarship na mabibigay, mga R&D projects na ilulunsad, mga titser na maseswelduhan, sa ilalim ng budget – hindi lang sila mga hiwa-hiwalay na budget items lamang. Lahat sila nakatahi sa mga pangarap natin para sa bansa,” said Angara.

(So if we were to count them – how many roads will be built, the fertilizers to be distributed, the police to be deployed, the cases in court that will be closed, the scholarships to be rewarded, research and development projects to be undertaken, teachers who will be given salaries, under this budget – they will not only be separate budget items. They are all weaved into our dreams for our country.)

Angara said that on top of the usual considerations of a growing population, inflation, infrastructure projects, and maintaining payrolls, the country must also consider disasters, rising out of the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.

“Our economy remains debilitated by the effects of long COVID. Although we have installed springboards for recovery amidst the rubble, the takeoff is not yet in the desired velocity that will propel us past the damages it has caused,” he said.

The lawmaker said that the war, while being seven time zones away from the Philippines, did not spare the country from the fallout of the fuel, food, and fertilizer crises it unleashed.

Social cushioning

The 2023 budget is set to be ready to cushion the impacts of the anticipated continuation of the local and global economic crisis.

Angara said that the government would strengthen social protection programs, such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and emergency employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment.

There is also increased proposed funding for quick response funds when calamities hit to be used by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine National Police, the Office of Civil Defense, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the DSWD.

“While no government has the power to change one’s geography or the weather, ours aims to do its utmost to prepare our communities and have funds on standby to help the affected communities just to get back up again if ever they are hit by natural calamities,” said Angara.

Lingering pandemic

Students, who have now returned to face-to-face classes, are seen to benefit from the DepEd using funds to ensure proper ventilation in their classrooms, rehabilitate sanitation facilities, and purchase COVID-19 test kits for faculty, among others, based on a recommendation from Senator Pia Cayetano.

There is also room in the budget for the purchase of more COVID-19 vaccines and “possibly even for monkeypox and other emerging diseases.”

Cayetano recommended funding support for the operations of various public hospitals.

Continued infrastructure push

The 2023 budget has appropriations ready for various infrastructure projects, such as the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project, the LRT-1 Cavite Extension, the NorthSouth Commuter Railway System, and the Metro Manila Subway.

The finance committee affirmed increases in funding under the Network Development Program of the DPWH for road-widening projects, for paving rough roads, and the construction of diversion roads, missing road links, flyovers, and interchanges.

Infrastructure for the pedestrian network and active transport like bicycles were not left out in the budget as well.

After outlining other plans in technology, tourism, defense, and other industries and sectors in the country, Angara emphasized the call for smart budgeting, where nothing is wasted or delayed.

Siyempre, hindi masosolusyunan ang mga problema ng ating bansa agad-agad…. Ngunit mahalaga na ang proseso ng pagbabago ay magsisimula ngayon,” said Angara.

(Of course, the problems of our country will not be solved immediately…. But it is important that the process of change starts now.)

The Senate’s interpellations or debates on the GAB will begin on Wednesday, November 9. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.