SPEAKER Martin G. Romualdez during the opening of the 19th Congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 25, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

HOUSE Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Wednesday said the 2023 national budget will be signed into law as soon as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos returns from this Brussels trip on Dec. 14.

“That is the most important piece of legislation, and we’ve tackled it, we’ve dispatched, and we [will proceed] now with our draft,” Mr. Romualdez told reporters during a social gathering on Wednesday.

“We hope that this would really add to the success of the presidency [and its] prosperity,” said Mr. Romualdez, a cousin of the president.

Congress ratified on Monday the Bicameral Conference Committee report on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.

Legislative leaders said they were hoping that the president will sign it into law before Congress goes on Christmas break on Dec. 17.

Mr. Marcos will be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union Summit in Brussels on the 14th.

Next year’s spending plan under the 2023 General Appropriations Act includes funds for financial assistance to targeted sectors, aid for people in crisis situations, free tuition and assistance to poor patients in government hospitals, among others.

The 2023 national budget also has a P3.5-billion funding for COVID-19 vaccine procurement, classified as an unprogrammed appropriation to give the Department of Health flexibility to use it for other health emergencies if necessary.

Opposition lawmakers expressed disappointment over the restoration of the P10-billion budget for the National Task Force to End Local Community Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an ad hoc body under the Office of the President.

The P150-million confidential and intelligence funds for the Department of Education was also reinstated after it was questioned during budget deliberations. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz