OVP budget hearing finished in a jiffy

It was over in around 10 minutes.

The House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday swiftly terminated the budget briefing of the Office of the Vice President — without questions.

The OVP submitted a P2.3-billion budget for 2023, a huge jump from its 2022 budget of P713 million.

House Minority Leader and 4Ps Partylist Rep. Marcelino Libanan moved to terminate the proceedings after around 10 minutes, noting that Minority bloc members will reserve their questions for the plenary deliberations.

“While some members of the Makabayan bloc would like to provide questions on some new items in the budget,” Libanan said.

“They will provide questions in the plenary to extend courtesy to the Office of the Vice President and therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that we terminate the briefing of the Office of the Vice President.”

House Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe seconded the motion.

The approval of the motion to terminate means that the panel will endorse the proposed budget to the plenary for another round of deliberations.

Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Zaldy Co, the panel’s chairperson, said he fully supports the proposed budget of the OVP for next year.

“I speak for my colleagues when I say that this committee has full confidence in the VP’s performance of her duties,” Co said.

Vice President Sara Z. Duterte expressed gratitude to the lawmakers for supporting her office’s programs.

She added she’s willing to work with House representatives in their respective districts, as well as with partylist groups.

“If there is anything we can do to help you, please let us know. We are willing to collaborate in helping our fellow Filipinos,” she told the panel.

The OVP’S proposed P2.3 billion budget includes P500 million in confidential funds, while its priority programs include good governance programs on financial subsidy, medical and burial assistance, as well provisions for free bus rides across the country.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Martin Romualdez hailed Duterte for exhibiting her “exemplary brand of leadership” as she defended the proposed budgets of her office and the Department of Education.

“Thank you Vice President Inday Sara Duterte for visiting the Office of the Speaker. It is a huge honor to be a part of your journey in public service,” Romualdez said.

“Rest assured that lawmakers in the 19th Congress will help you find sufficient funding for the projects and programs of the OVP and DepEd Philippines to uplift the quality of life of every Filipino,” he added.

The Department of Transportation is eyeing a continued partnership with the OVP to continue its “Libreng Sakay” program after no funds were allocated for the program in the 2023 proposed national budget.

The OVP has allotted P32.5 million for its free ride program.

In a statement on Wednesday, DoTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said the free ride program provided “transport relief” during the pandemic but its long-term viability cannot be argued due to constraints in the national budget.

“We recognize that budget allocation for ‘Libreng Sakay’ is within the prerogative of DBM (Department of Budget and Management) in accordance with government’s fiscal priorities and with due approval from Congress,” Bautista said.

The Transportation chief, however, said he is “more than willing” to collaborate with the OVP to continue its free ride program launched on 3 August with five buses to help commuters in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.

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