By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

THE Philippine House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on third and final reading the P5.786-trillion national budget for next year.

The 2024 budget is 9.5% higher than this year’s budget and is equivalent to 21.7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Lawmakers approved House Bill 8980 or the General Appropriations bill on second and third reading on the same day after President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. Certified the measure as urgent.

“We are confident that every centavo reflects the overarching targets to usher economic transformation towards inclusivity and sustainability and is in line with the administration’s medium-term fiscal framework, the eight-point socioeconomic agenda and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP),” Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez told the plenary before its adjournment.

Congressmen earlier created a small committee to resolve individual amendments to the bill.

The Senate is still holding hearings on the budgets of the different agencies and expects to approve the measure on final reading by November.

In her turno en contra speech, Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said the proposed budget has “no substantial difference from the budgets of the previous years,” noting insufficient appropriations for food, labor and social services.

Assistant Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, who voted no to the bill, cited the budget’s “selective agenda.”

Committee on appropriations Chairman and Party-list Rep. Elizaldy S. Co. earlier said the House would realign the combined P650-million confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the Vice President and Department of Education to the budgets of intelligence and security forces amid rising tensions with China.

Among the agencies that will benefit from the intelligence funds are the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Security Council (NSA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The Senate also committed to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds to relevant security agencies.