Senator Cayetano calls on Bicam to align budget to economic realities
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday called on the members of the Bicameral conference committee to align the P5.268 trillion National Budget for 2023 with the administration’s priorities and make it responsive to the country’s effort to recover from the economic realities of the pandemic.
Cayetano made the call as he commended his colleagues in the Senate for the hard work the body put in to scrutinize the 2023 national budget.
“Dumaan sa matinding pagbubusisi ang GAB (General Appropriations Bill) na ito sa Senado. Our Chairperson Sonny Angara and the Senate leadership did a good job,” he said.
But the independent senator said given the current economic realities, including the rise in prices of basic goods as well as the limited fiscal space, the members of the Bicam conference committee need to have a mindset of “really aligning the 2023 budget with the priorities of the Marcos Administration as laid it out by the President in his SONA: economic recovery and food security.”
The Bicam meetings for the 2023 GAB are expected to begin Friday, November 25, to thresh out the differences between the Senate and House of Representatives of the budget. Cayetano is one of those assigned as members of the Senate Bicameral panel, along with Senators Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Bato Dela Rosa, Win Gatchalian, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, JV Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada.
Cayetano said he will continue pushing for budgetary alignments raised by senators during the recent plenary debates that focus on agriculture and public infrastructure.
On irrigation, Cayetano noted that the P40.842 billion budget falls short of the P50 billion that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) had requested. He also pointed out that the budget for small-scale irrigation fell from P1.109 billion in 2022 to only P991.11 million in the 2023 budget.
“Life blood ng ating mga magsasaka ang irrigation kaya’t mahalagang mapagbigyan natin sila,” he said.
Cayetano also said while the budget for farm-to-market roads increased from P7.485 billion in 2022 to 13.14 billion in 2023, the program still falls short when compared with what the country’s Asian neighbors are allotting for it.
“Tayo sa Pilipinas nakakumpleto pa lang ng 2,712 kilometers ng farm-to-market roads samantalang ang Thailand ay may 47,916 kilometers at ang Vietnam ay may 175,000 kilometers. Is it any wonder that we have to import rice from these two countries? Their farmers get far more support from their governments,” he said.
Cayetano again raised his proposal for better use of the infrastructure budget for “new road networks, roads and bridges, as well as community centers and parks.”
During the plenary debates, he criticized the infrastructure programs under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for its divergence from the ‘Build Better More’ slogan and for its bigger allocation for maintenance than for new projects.
“Kung ia-add natin ang budget for maintenance and rehabilitation, mahigit P200 billion ito, which is almost one third of the DPHW’s P737 billion budget. This is not a ‘Build Better More’ budget but a ‘Maintenance Pa More’ budget,” he said.
Cayetano urged the Bicam panel to work together to fine-tune the budget and align it with the needed priorities to “offer good prices for farmers and better employment benefits for our workers.”
“This is democracy at work. Masaya tayo sa Senate version ng budget, pero kailangan ding i-point out na may mga portions na kailangan ng improvement. We are not giving up on these and we will continue advocating for them in the bicam,” Cayetano said.
“Rest assured that we will work equally hard — if not harder — during the Bicam to make sure the people get the budget they deserve,” he added.