By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES have turned in their 2025 budget proposals to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as of end-April, with next year’s spending plan still on track for submission to Congress by July, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said.

“Our preparation for the 2025 national budget is well on schedule,” she said in a Viber message.

“While agencies were able to submit their proposals as of April 30, some are still in the process of providing complete documentation in support of their budget proposals, such as detailed listings, inventory and other similar materials that will prove the implementation readiness of the proposals,” she said.

The National Government’s (NG) spending plan for 2025 is set at a record-high P6.2 trillion, 7.5% or P432.4 billion higher than this year.

This would be equivalent to 21.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Our Budget Preparation and Execution Group was also able to complete the technical budget hearings on April 30,” Ms. Pangandaman added. The group provides agencies with inputs and recommendations for their budget allocations.

The proposals are now with the DBM’s Preliminary Executive Review Board (ERB), which is set to review them until May 10, according to the Budget chief.

“The Final ERB is tentatively scheduled from May 29 to June 4,” Ms. Pangandaman said.

The ERB, composed of the Budget chief and senior officials of the agency, aims to ensure that priority programs and their respective budgets are in line with the National Government’s agenda.

The DBM will then finalize the National Expenditure Plan and Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing, which will be presented to the President and Cabinet members.

“Meanwhile, the scheduled presentation to the President and the Cabinet is on the third week of June, to have ample time for final decisions before printing of the budget documents. Submission of the President to Congress is tentatively targeted on July 22, 2024,” Ms. Pangandaman added.

Under the Constitution, the President must submit its proposed budget to Congress 30 days after the State of the Nation Address. The government wants its spending plan passed before yearend to ensure timely implementation of its projects in 2025 and sufficient funding for public services.

Meanwhile, the DBM in a memorandum reminded agencies to prioritize human capital development in their budgets.

“The NG remains committed to balancing fiscal sustainability while ensuring that the country’s development needs are addressed,” the DBM said in National Budget Memorandum No. 152 dated April 30.

In particular, key programs/activities/projects (PAPs) on education, health and social protection, and labor force productivity should be given higher funding, the department said.

Larger budgets should also be allocated to agriculture, tourism, and micro, small, and medium enterprises, as well as the digitalization of government services.

The DBM also told government agencies to include only the key PAPs indicated in its March 19 memorandum in their Tier 2 proposals for new and expanded programs, as it noted that budgets for Tier 1 proposals — requirements of ongoing projects — are expected to take the bulk of available funding.

“Implementation-ready PAPs that can be completed within the fiscal year, or until the allowable implementation period as provided in the applicable general and special provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA), if any, shall be accorded top priority in line with the principles of Cash Budgeting System,” according to the memorandum.

NG agencies were also asked to use existing funds from this year’s budget for the continued implementation of their activities. Maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlays under the 2024 GAA are valid until end-2025.

“The indispensable role of government in stirring domestic economic activity cannot be overstated,” the DBM said, noting that the underperformance in government spending in the first half of 2023 had affected economic output.

“Swifter budget utilization, coupled with the efficient implementation of PAPs, will be vital for full economic recovery.”

“Agencies are, therefore, urged to continue their efforts to strengthen budget execution and maximize the early release of allotments under the General Appropriations Act as the Allotment Order policy by undertaking proper planning and early procurement, and ensuring comprehensive preparatory works are completed. These include an improved targeting and distribution system for beneficiaries of social programs, as well as preconstruction activities like the acquisition of right-of-way/relocation sites for infrastructure projects, among others,” it added.