With only seven days allotted for House Bill 8980, or the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) plenary debates, the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations vowed to implement thorough, transparent, and comprehensive budget debates.
House Committee on Appropriations Chairman and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co said the committee is now ready to lead plenary debates on the proposed P5.768 trillion budget for fiscal year 2024, which will start today, Tuesday.
Compared to the current year’s P5.268 trillion in appropriations, the projected budget for the next year is 9.5 percent higher.
The lower chamber will finish the budget process on September 27 or before Congress goes on recess later this month.
“We are a committee to facilitate a thorough and transparent budget process. Our overarching aim is to formulate a budget that serves both the immediate needs and long-term ambitions of our nation,” Co said.
“This budget will serve as a cornerstone for sustainable development, inclusive growth, and robust public services,” the lawmaker added.
Committee hearings on the proposed 2024 national budget started on August 10 and succeeded on schedule.
Co said they aim to complete plenary debates by September 27.
He added that the public could expect comprehensive debates on specific elements of departmental appropriations in the upcoming plenary sessions.
“The objective is to create an open platform for balanced discussions, allowing all stakeholders to voice their opinions. In doing so, we aim to ensure that the final budget genuinely reflects the collective will and aspirations of our nation,” Co assured.
“Transparency is more than a mere term; it is a fundamental commitment. The public has the right to know how their resources are being allocated, and it is our duty to provide that information,” he said.
Hike in SUC budgets
Meanwhile, during the House Committee on Appropriations pre-plenary hearing on the budget of state universities and colleges [SUCs], Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel said it was confirmed through the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges [PASUC] President Tirso Ronquillo that given budget limitations, SUCs only accept students based on their absorptive capacity despite competitive admissions.
“The promise of free college education is meaningless if there are only a few who can possibly enjoy it because our universities cannot accommodate more. The size of the proposed infrastructure budget is big, but our SUCs seem to be out of the picture. If we want infrastructure or investment that has a multiplier effect, it should be in education. Many generations to come will benefit from the learning of our youth,” said Manuel.
Manuel also rebutted remarks about limiting the free higher education program of the RA 10931 on top of existing budget cuts against SUCs.
Kabataan Partylist, a principal author of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, said free education should be expanded and improved rather than limited.
At least 30 out of the 117 SUCs in the Philippines are set to receive less funding in 2024.
The top 10 SUCs that will suffer the biggest budget cuts in 2024 are: the University of the Philippines system with P2.9 billion; Mindanao State University with P2.3 billion; Mariano Marcos State University with P1.5 billion; Eastern Visayas State University with P1.3 billion; Central Bicol State University with P1.2 billion; West Visayas State University with P852.9 million; Cebu Normal University with P176.6 million; Aurora State College of Technology with P130.7 million; Northern Bukidnon State College with P100.5 million; and Philippine State College of Aeronautics with P89.7 million.
Under the 2024 proposed national budget, the 117 SUCs are set to receive a total budget of P100.9 billion for 2024. This is a P6.2 billion decrease from this year’s P107 billion budget.
SUCs’ maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) will also face a budget cut next year amounting to P25.9 million.