December 20, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — The proposed P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget includes almost P500 billion social amelioration program or “ayuda” for at least 12 million poor and low-income families or an estimated 48 million Filipinos, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Tuesday.
“For the first time, under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., we are allocating half-a-trillion pesos, or about nine percent of the national budget, as assistance to the poor and households with insufficient income,” Romualdez said as he thanked Ako Bicol Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and his colleagues for a job well done in crafting a pro-people budget under the Marcos administration.
“We are hoping that in some way, we are able to support people who badly need government help to get them through hard times,” he said.
Marcos is set to sign the proposed 2024 spending program in scheduled ceremonies at the Palace.
Romualdez, the leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives, enumerated the programs for which the P500 billion was allocated.
He revealed that Congress introduced in the budget a new program labelled AKAP, or the Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita.
“It’s a P60-billion fund, whose aim is to provide direct cash assistance to the ‘near poor’ or families earning up to P23,000 a month. At least 12 million households will benefit from it, including low-income workers like those in construction and factories, drivers, food service crew, and the like,” Romualdez said.
He said the target beneficiaries would receive “a one-time cash assistance of P5,000.”
“If the program is successful, we can continue implementing it next year,” he said.
The House leader pointed out that existing government programs targeting the poorest of the poor, like Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Tulong Pang-hanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) under the Department of Labor and Employment would continue to get tens of billions in funds.
Some P23 billion has been appropriated for AICS and P30 billion for TUPAD, he added.
Romualdez stressed that Congress continues to provide funding for Marcos’ “legacy projects” — Legacy Food Security, Legacy Specialty Hospitals, and Legacy Housing for the poor.
“For Legacy Food Security, we allocated P5 billion to support our farmers with free irrigation, seeds, fertilizer, and other farm inputs. Another P5 billion is appropriated for the buying of their produce at market prices,” he said.
“By providing much-needed capital and buying their harvest, we will not only create jobs and assure the income of our farmers – we can ensure supply of affordable and high quality local rice,” he said.
He recalled that Marcos has ordered the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to expedite the implementation of irrigation projects in four months in preparation for the El Niño or extended dry season phenomenon.
“NIA has enough funds to do this. Congress allocated P80 billion for NIA to build more dams, water reservoirs and solar irrigation systems. More irrigated lands mean better food production,” he said.
READ: Workers earning no more than P23,000 monthly to get P5,000 aid – House
As for Legacy Hospitals, the House leader reported that construction of new or expansion of existing facilities has already started as ordered by President Marcos last year.
“We hope to finish them within three years. For 2024, we have appropriated P1 billion for UP-Philippine General Hospital, P1.5 billion for National Kidney and Transplant Institute, P1 billion for Philippine Cancer Center, P1 billion for Philippine Children’s Medical Center, P1 billion for Bicol Regional Medical Center, and P500 million for Batangas Regional Medical Center,” he said.
He said aside from new or expansion of healthcare facilities, the government continues to provide free treatment and consultation, free medicines, and quality medical services to indigent patients.
He added that Congress has also prioritized the President’s legacy housing program for the poor for funding.
Romualdez announced that the President is set to inaugurate some completed housing projects in the days ahead.
“With government subsidy, more Filipinos can now have access to quality, affordable housing. Since monthly amortization is only P2,500 to P3,500, government housing will be much more affordable than the projects of private developers, which cost about P15,000 a month in amortization,” he said.
He said the House and the Senate likewise set aside P1.5 billion for the development and expansion of the airport in Pag-asa Island as a manifestation of the Marcos administration’s determination to assert the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
An additional P800 million is allocated for the construction of a shelter port for fishermen and boats in Lawak, Palawan — the island closest to Ayungin Shoal, where a platoon of Filipino soldiers is manning a rusting Navy vessel intentionally grounded there in 1999 as a symbol of Philippine presence in that area, he said.