Leftist lawmakers lauded their colleagues in the House of Representatives for the “small positive step” of realigning P77.5 billion from the still-pending P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.
But they urged congressmen to do more by realigning P9.29 billion in confidential and intelligence funds and the remaining budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
“The institutional amendments to augment the budget for health, education, transportation and other critical social services is a small positive step,” House deputy minority leader Rep. France Castro said.
But she said in a statement on Friday that the increased allocations and changes in House Bill No. 4488, or the 2023 General Appropriations Bill now pending in the Senate, are “still wanting.”
Earlier, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said the lower chamber has made P 77.5 billion in institutional amendments to give more funds to government agencies handling the economy, health, the energy sector and the environment.
The biggest increased allocations were:
• P20.25 billion for various programs of the Department of Health;
• P12.5 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
• P10.6 billion for the Department of Education; and
• P10 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways.
But Castro said the changes were wanting as more funds are needed for critical social services like health, social pension and education.
“Yes, it granted the Philippine General Hospital P500 million in additional funds, but it needs P4.587 billion for 2023. It is also not clear if this is just capital outlay or the P37 million budget cut in maintenance and other operating expenses was restored,” she said.
For House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene Brosas, Congress should realign the entire P10-billion budget of the NTF-Elcac and not just P5 billion to fund more critical social services.
“It is positive and an initial win that the House leadership has taken an action over our persistent call to free up public funds from the clutch of the NTF-Elcac via the Barangay Development Program. However, we still think that the entire P10 billion should be realigned, not just P5 billion,” she said.