Metro Manila, November 24 ------ The Senate approved on final reading its version of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.
A total of 21 senators voted in favor of the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) and there were no negative votes. The proposed national budget for next year is 4.9% higher than this year's P5.024 trillion. The 2023 appropriations will prioritize education, infrastructure, health, agriculture, and social protection.
Senate Committee on Finance chairman Sonny Angara said confidential and intelligence funds of various agencies worth P152.668 million were realigned. These included the Department of Education's P100-million confidential funds, which were moved to the Office of the Vice President's operation expenses. Vice President Sara Duterte is also the education secretary. However, Sen. Risa Hontiveros moved to return the funds to DepEd, and instead use them for the department's Healthy Learners Institution Program. Angara accepted the motion.
Other agencies whose confidential and intelligence funds were realigned were the Department of Foreign Affairs (P5 million), Department of Justice (P19.2 million), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P2 million), the Office of the Ombudsman (P20 million), and other executive offices (P6 million). But the funds will stay with the respective agencies, according to Angara. "All within the agency because we did not want to deprive the agencies of their budget, but placed under maintenance and other operating expenses," the senator explained.
The House of Representatives passed its own version of the 2023 spending bill on final reading in September. The bicameral conference committee will start meeting on November 25 to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions. Following the approval by the bicameral committee, the proposed 2023 national budget will be sent to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for signing.