Marcos cheers ‘Christmas gift’ of P5.27 trillion state budget

December 19, 2022 - 11:30 AM
In this Oct. 14, 2022 photo, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr attends the 8th Annual Balik Scientist Program (BSP) Convention. (OPS/Released)

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Friday signed into law the 2023 budget bill which authorises a record 5.27 trillion pesos ($94.78 billion) spending to support his administration’s ambitious economic agenda.

Both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly for the budget bill this month, despite opposition questions over hundreds of millions of pesos of “confidential and intelligence funds” to be overseen by Vice President Sara Duterte, the daughter of the previous president.

Next year’s budget, the first for the Marcos administration, is equal to 22.2% of the country’s total economic output, and is nearly 5% higher than predecessor’s Rodrigo Duterte’s spending plan for 2022.

“I will have a merry Christmas because this is as fine a Christmas gift a president can receive from his legislature,” Marcos said in a speech after signing the bill.

“It is important because the budget… essentially defines and gives muscle to the roadmap of what we intend to do for the next year.”

Marcos is the son and namesake of the late strongman who was famously toppled in a 1986 “people power” uprising after two decades in power. He won a landslide victory in the May election, ensuring his allies control the legislature.

He has outlined his six-year policy agenda that aims to expand the economy by as much as 8% during his term, to keep its place among Asia’s fastest-growing nations, and halve the poverty rate, which was 18.1% in 2021.

The education sector will receive the highest allocation of 852.8 billion pesos or 16% of the total budget, followed by public works with 13%, healthcare with 5%, and social welfare with about 4%, Marcos said in a statement that accompanied the budget proposal.

The president also runs the agriculture portfolio, which received 184.1 billion pesos, a 40% jump from its 2022 budget.

($1 = 55.6050 Philippine pesos)

—Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty