THE MARCOS administration submitted to Congress on Wednesday its proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, which sought to increase allocations for education, infrastructure, agriculture and defense.
The 2024 National Expenditure Plan (NEP) is 9.5% higher than this year’s budget and is equivalent to 21.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
“The proposed budget seeks to provide the necessary funds for the operations of government and for the continuing pursuit of our plan for economic transformation,” President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said in his budget message.
As mandated by the Constitution, the education sector received the biggest allocation at PHP 924.7 billion, 3.3% higher than this year’s budget. This includes PHP 51.12 billion for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education program, PHP 12.04 billion for textbooks and other instructional materials and PHP 11.71 billion for feeding programs in schools.
The Department of Education alone will see a 5.37% increase in its budget to PHP 758.6 billion for 2024, as most public schools are now implementing in-person classes.
“Infrastructure development is one of the key drivers of our continuing economic growth. As such, we will sustain this momentum through the ‘Build, Better, More’ program with PHP 1.42 trillion, equivalent to 5.3% of gross domestic product,” Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said during a briefing at the House of Representatives.
She noted the program will prioritize physical connectivity infrastructure such as road networks and railway systems, particularly the North-South Commuter Railway System and the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1.
The Department of Public Works and Highways received the biggest allocation among departments with PHP 822.2 billion, but this was 8% lower year on year. Of this, PHP 148.1 billion will go to building or improving roads, while PHP 115.6 billion will be allotted for preventive maintenance of existing roads.
On the other hand, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) saw its proposed 2024 budget double to PHP 214.3 billion from PHP 106 billion this year, as the government sees the need to improve mass transport system and reduce road congestion.
The bulk of the DoTr budget or PHP 163.7 billion will go to the rail transport program.
Meanwhile, the agriculture sector has been allocated PHP 181.4 billion for next year, 4.5% higher than this year’s budget.
Ms. Pangandaman said the NEP continues to support programs that boost the local production of rice, corn and other high-value crops.
For instance, the National Rice Program has been allotted PHP 30.87 billion, while the programs for corn and high-value crops will receive PHP 5.28 billion and PHP 1.94 billion, respectively. The budget also allocated PHP 10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
The budget also included PHP 17.27 billion to be allotted for farm-to-market roads in key production areas, and P31.18 billion to irrigate farmlands.
Under next year’s budget, the Department of Health will receive PHP 306.1 billion, 2.7% lower than this year’s budget. The Philippine Health Insurance Crop. will get a PHP 101.51-billion budget.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) saw a 5.2% increase in next year’s budget to PHP 209.9 million.
“In support of the Social Protection Floor Framework, a higher allocation of PHP 112.8 billion will be provided to assist 4.4 million households under the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” Ms. Pangandaman said.
Another PHP 1.89 billion will go to the food stamp program, while the budget for the social pension for indigent citizens was doubled to PHP 49.81 billion.
The budget for the Department of National Defense was also increased by 14.16% to PHP 232.2 billion.
However, the budget for the labor and employment sector dropped by 14% to PHP 40.5 billion. This includes the allocation for the Departments of Labor and Employment and Department of Migrant Workers.
“The budget for social services and protection looks to fall with cuts or only increments in the budgets for social welfare, labor, health and housing. Even the budget for environmental protection is cut. On the other hand, there are hugely disproportionate increases in the budgets for infrastructure, military and police, and debt servicing,” Jose Enrique A. Africa, IBON Foundation executive director, said in a Viber message.
Around 11.6% or PHP 670.5 billion of the 2024 proposed national budget will cover interest payments on the government’s domestic and foreign debt.
Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convener of thinktank InfraWatch PH, also expressed concern over the increase in the defense budget in “stark contrast to significant cuts in essential agencies, including health and labor and employment.”
“The Marcos Jr. administration has set up a national budget proposal that is largely dysmorphic and full of misprioritization. Congress has a lot of questioning — and correcting — to do,” he said in a Viber chat.
Meanwhile, the Development Budget Coordination Committee will hold a briefing before the House Committee on Appropriations on Aug. 10.
Marikina Rep. Stella A. Quimbo, vice-chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said the House is targeting to begin plenary debates on the budget on September 18, and approve it on third reading by the end of September. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz