Senator-elect and Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero said he would like to see the speedy passage of the government’s P5.2-trillion spending package for 2023 to pump prime the economy and provide the much-needed assistance to small businesses and the agriculture sector still hurting from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Matagal ko nang sinasabi na dahil sa matinding dagok ng pandemya, dapat all hands-on deck tayo anuman ang kulay, anuman ang pulitika, anuman ang kinabibilangan na partido pulitikal. Higit at mas mahalaga sa ngayon ay ang agarang solusyon at tulong sa mga mamamayan,” Escudero said.
President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has previously said that he would like to work closely with the 19th Congress to ensure the speedy passage of next year’s budget to finance his administration’s economic stimulus measures.
“Wala naman sigurong kokontra sa mabilis na pagtalakay at pagpasa ng appropriation measure dahil ito ang pinakamahalagang tungkulin namin bilang mamababatas.”
“I completely agree. Wala naman sigurong kokontra sa mabilis na pagtalakay at pagpasa ng appropriation measure dahil ito ang pinakamahalagang tungkulin namin bilang mamababatas sa ilalim ng Saligang-Batas,” said Escudero, who headed the Senate Committee on Finance under the 16th Congress.
Once the incoming Congress begins discussion and debates on the proposed multi-trillion budget, the senator-elect said he would like to prioritize support for the agriculture sector, home to the poorest in the country, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99% of the local economy and employ more than 5 million Filipinos based on government figures.
“Kapag nasolusyunan natin ang problema ng MSMEs, parang nasolusyunan na rin natin ang halos 99 porsyento ng problema sa ekonomiya at kakulangan ng trabaho.”
“Kapag nasolusyunan natin ang problema ng MSMEs, parang nasolusyunan na rin natin ang halos 99 porsyento ng problema sa ekonomiya at kakulangan ng trabaho,” he said.
For the agriculture industry, Escudero would like to see the sector receiving the second highest allocation in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) so Filipino farmers can increase their productivity and survive the open market, as he lamented that while country remains an agricultural economy, very little is invested in the sector compared to the massive budget for infrastructure development.
“Lumalabas parang bansa tayo ng mga contractor dahil mas malaki yung pondo sa construction kaysa sa agrikultura. Pero sa dulo, agricultural country pa rin ang Pilipinas. Nakalagay sa Saligang Batas, pinakamataas dapat ang budget ng edukasyon, pero dapat ang pumapangalawa dun ay agrikultura na dahil iyan ang pinagkakakitaan ng pinakamahihirap nating mga kababayan,” he pointed out.
The 2022 GAA allotted P788.5 billion for education, P786.6 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways, and P268.4 billion for health—representing the three biggest allocations in the national budget this year.
Agriculture, including irrigation, had the seventh biggest allocation, with P102.5 billion.
In order to raise funds for the cash-strapped and debt-saddled Philippine economy, Escudero is also urging the government to sell its unnecessary assets, step up collection of taxes and fees, curb corruption, and allocate properly and judiciously the scare resources.
“The election spending spurred the economy and we expect our GDP (gross domestic product) to increase this year. However, we must also do whatever we can to safeguard the little resources we have in order to stir the economy and create more stable jobs domestically,” he concluded.