August 30, 2022 | 00:00
MANILA, Philippines — The heads of two of the government’s revenue-generating agencies, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), are due to defend their office’s proposed budget for 2023 in the House of Representatives today.
The House Appropriations Committee, led by Ako Bicol Party List Representative Zaldy Co, will review the agencies’ spending plan, which PCSO and Pagcor officials will be asked to justify.
Co said his committee would work hard, without sacrificing independence in accordance with Congress’ mandate on the power of the purse, to ensure President Marcos can sign the 2023 national budget by Dec. 25.
“When the president received the draft budget last August 22, the instruction was clear: that the committee act expeditiously without sacrificing its independence to adopt this budget before the Christmas holidays,” he said.
“We will ensure that every peso authorized in this budget is aimed at fighting food security and inflation, reducing poverty and providing the necessary impulses for economic transformation,” he added.
Marikina representative Stella Luz Quimbo, senior vice president of the Co panel, also promised a quick process.
“Rest assured that Congress will work tirelessly to approve a budget that meets people’s needs and is capable of delivering inclusive and sustainable growth,” Quimbo said.
Meanwhile, it will be the turn of the tourism and foreign affairs ministries tomorrow, while the judiciary will defend its draft budget on Thursday, which will be led by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
Besides the Supreme Court down to the lowest courts, officials from the Ministries of Energy, Interior and Local Government and the Energy Regulatory Commission will also be grilled on Thursday.
On Friday, Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez will defend the President’s Office’s 2023 budget, while officials from the land reform and environment and natural resources departments will also appear before the co-led committee.
It will be the turn of the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration on September 5, while the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development will have its day on September 6.
In a related development, Representatives Mikee Romero of the 1Pacman party list and Paolo Duterte of Davao City want the budget for the modernization of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and allocation of teachers, respectively, are increased.
“Phivolcs is a service and facility institute of the Department of Science and Technology with the primary mandate of mitigating disasters resulting from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and other related geotectonic phenomena” , Romero said.
Romero authored House Bill 3587 which seeks to provide modernization funding to Phivolks to ensure the country meets its commitments to international volcanology and seismology agreements.
Duterte, along with Benguet representative Eric Yap, proposed granting a tax-free stipend of P2,000 per month during the school year for each public school teacher to cover expenses for supplies and teaching materials.
“Teachers are the nation’s modern heroes – relentlessly providing au pair education to young people and sharpening them to become valued members of society,” Romero and Duterte said.
The two senior administration lawmakers filed HB 3543 (Teaching Supplies Allowance) aimed at institutionalizing the P2,000 grant and which will cover public school teachers in the basic education sector.
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office meanwhile lamented that excessive taxation on lotto and charity operations has prevented the agency from fulfilling its mandate of distributing charity to needy citizens of the country.
Excessive taxes imposed on the agency have exhausted its ability to allocate revenue to its charitable fund from which it obtains the cash assistance sought by needy people in satellite offices across the country, according to the PCSO’s chief executive and deputy. – chairman of the board Melquiades Robles.
“It’s an alarming concern for us at PCSO,” Robles said in a virtual interview on Teleradyo over the weekend.
“Because of the taxes imposed on us, the 9 billion pesos that we had, it does not even reach 1 billion pesos. We just have 900 million pesos (for our charity fund). It’s just one tenth,” he added in Filipino and English.
The PCSO official said he pays a withholding tax, a documentary stamp tax (DST), a TRAIN law tax (Tax reform for acceleration and inclusion), a CREATE law tax (Relaunch of businesses and corporate tax incentives) and a mandate to fund the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and the Malasakit Center Act.
He added that PCSO’s DST payments reach up to 5 billion pesos, its UHC funding reaches 2 billion pesos and its implementation of the Malasakit Center law, 1 billion pesos. – Rainier Allan Ronda