Co-Sponsorship Speech: General Appropriations Bill

November 7, 2023

Co-Sponsorship Speech of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
House Bill No. 8980 under Committee Report No. 155
7 November 2023

Mr. President, my dear colleagues, as we gather to deliberate on our nation’s 2024 budget, I stand before you with a sense of responsibility and determination. This is a crucial moment where we can shape our country’s future.

The national budget reflects our priorities, values, and commitment to serving our people. It allows us to address challenges and seize opportunities. Let us ensure every peso is used effectively and transparently, prioritizing the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable.

I respectfully request my fellow Senators’ consideration of the 2024 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), which includes the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The Sub-committee “G” report seeks to realize our country’s vision with the DFA establishing confidence in our role as a reliable strategic partner in the global scene and protecting the rights and promoting the welfare and interests of Filipinos overseas, and with the DOLE empowering our human resources and fostering the creation of employment opportunities.

Department of Labor and Employment

In August this year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the unemployment rate stood at 4.4% or 2.21 million unemployed Filipinos. According to the Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development 2022 report released in July this year, national poverty estimates show that poverty incidence rose from 16.7 percent in 2018 to 18.1 percent in 2021. This translates to 19.9 million poor people, an increase of 2.3 million over the same period.

With the prevailing challenges in the economy—a 6.1% inflation rate in September 2023 and a Php 14.24 trillion debt as of July 2023—the DOLE contributes through various interventions such as employment, training, and livelihood to fortify the capacity and income-earning ability of individuals and families.

In the identification of Livelihood and Emergency Employment Programs, for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers (TUPAD) beneficiaries in particular, the DOLE shall include funding for clean-up operations, tree planting, and the implementation of livelihood programs to support sustainable employment opportunities.

Included as a special provision is the convergence program of DOLE and TESDA. DOLE will collaborate with TESDA through a partnership for the TUPAD and the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP). TESDA will provide training programs to equip the beneficiaries with the necessary skills, improving their chances of securing employment and establishing a stable source of income.

In addition, with the provision on rice extension services, the budgetary adjustment from the Department of Agriculture to TESDA will require TESDA to actively coordinate with agricultural officers from local government units to ensure the widespread dissemination of rice training programs provided by TESDA. By working together with agricultural officers at the local level, TESDA can effectively share and promote their rice training initiatives, leading to enhanced knowledge and skills in the rice industry.

Ang TESDA ay nasa posisyon na tulungan ang pamahalaan na mapabuti ang kalagayan ng mga mamamayan at mabawasan ang kahirapan sa bansa. Sa pamamagitan ng TESDA, nagtutulungan ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno at pribadong organisasyon sa pagbibigay ng pagsasanay na umaangkop at tumutugon sa mga pangangailangan ng isang komunidad.

From 2018 to June 2023, TESDA has 6.31 million Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Enrollees, 5.34 million TVET graduates, and a 93.4% certification rate.

My dear colleagues, it is within our mandate to implement a policy that will address intergenerational poverty, which is currently impeding our country’s sustainable growth and overall development. It is crucial that we prioritize supporting the budget of DOLE and its attached agencies, while also taking proactive steps to identify the fundamental causes of labor-related problems and their corresponding solutions.

Department of Foreign Affairs

As we face national, regional, and global security issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is realizing the country’s foreign policy objectives by preserving national security, promoting economic security and cultural diplomacy, and ensuring the safety and welfare of Filipinos overseas.

In recent months, the DFA has displayed its determination and resolve in fulfilling its responsibilities. During the September Committee hearing, the DFA assured us of their commitment to supporting our overseas kababayans, even amidst the transition of the Assistance-to-Nationals function for Overseas Filipino Workers to the Department of Migrant Workers in response to crisis situations like those in the Middle East.

Makakatiyak ang mga Pilipino sa buong mundo na ang hanay ng mga serbisyo ng DFA ay maipaparating, lalo na sa mga panahon ng mga matinding hamon at kagipitan. As the DFA forges strong ties with longstanding partners and establishes connections with non-traditional allies, it effectively promotes the interests of the Philippines in the face of dynamic shifts in regional and global landscapes.

The DFA has been actively engaged in enhancing its capacity for cultural diplomacy on a global scale. This includes the proposed establishment of a dedicated office specifically focused on cultural diplomacy and promotion. By taking this step, the DFA aims to strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations through the exchange of cultural experiences and the promotion of mutual understanding between nations.

Pinagbubuti ng DFA ang proseso ng pagkuha ng mga pasaporte sa pamamagitan ng pagbubukas ng mga konsulado sa bansa. Upang maprotektahan ang imprastraktura ng ahensya mula sa iba’t ibang uri ng pagbabanta, isinama natin ang isang amyenda para palakasin ang cybersecurity system at network ng DFA sa mga opisina nito sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa. Higit pa rito, isinama natin ang isang amyenda na naglalayon na isulong at suportahan ang propesyonal na paglago ng mga miyembro ng kawani ng DFA, na nagbibigay sa kanila ng mga pagkakataong pahusayin ang kanilang mga kasanayan, kaalaman, at kadalubhasaan sa kani-kanilang larangan.

The work of the DFA effectively representing Philippine interests abroad is of utmost concern, especially in these times. Their proposed budget for 2024 of Php 23.876 billion shall help continue to:

– raise public awareness of the 2016 Arbitral Award, intensify engagements with traditional allies, as well as build relations with non-traditional partners;

– technical assistance, training, and capacity building for UNESCO-related dossier preparatory and finalization activities;

– digitization of the publications of the Foreign Service Institute;

– campaign for a seat in the UN Security Council for 2027-2028;

– facilitate the opening of 4 new Foreign Service Posts in 2024 in Romania, Finland, Ireland and Colombia;

– open additional consular offices to reach more kababayans; and
continue to protect and promote the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos through the Assistance-to-Nationals Fund and Legal Assistance Fund.

With this in mind, I respectfully invite my fellow Senators to join me in recognizing the valuable contributions made by the DFA and ensuring that they receive the necessary funding. By providing sufficient resources, we can empower the DFA to continue their service to our country and enable them to continue their vital work on behalf of our nation.

We have submitted the sub-committee “G” report for the consideration of the Committee on Finance, and we defer to the committee on any changes introduced on our recommendation.

With that, I humbly endorse for plenary consideration the 2024 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). I earnestly hope that these will merit the approval of this august chamber.

Thank you very much.