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Senate to ratify 2024 national budget today

MANILA, Philippines — The National Democratic Front (NDF) has announced its decision to re-enter formal peace talks with the Philippine government after six years.

The decision, the NDF said, is based on the premises and context outlined in the Jo int Statement of Nov. 23 between the Philippine government and the NDF, signed in Oslo, Norway.

The Joint Statement announced that the two parties have agreed to a “principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict resolving the roots of the armed conflict and ending the armed struggle.”

The NDF claimed to have consistently emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, highlighting the land problem that significantly impacts more than 70 percent of the country’s population, particularly the peasantry.

“We have repeatedly stressed that it is necessary to address the roots of the problems affecting our people,” the political wing of the local communist movement said in a statement on Saturday.

The NDF stated that the struggle for land mus t be a focal point in the peace talks.

The group underscored the significance of building upon fundamental bilateral agreements, such as The Hague Joint Declaration of Sept. 1, 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

These agreements, the y said, remain binding between the parties.

While acknowledging that various issues and concerns remain outstanding and need negotiation, the NDF categorically rejects any talk, insinuation, or demand for the surrender of the democratic front or revolutionary struggle of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and NDF.

They highlighted that the peace negotiations are not discussions for capitulation but rather a “unique opportunity t o find mutually acceptable and principled ways of addressing the root causes of the civil war.” — Cecille Suerte Felipe

MANILA, Philippines — Entrepreneurship is still on the minds of many Filipinos, Go Negosyo said, after a survey conducted by OCTA Research showed that the entrepreneurship advocacy group enjoys a high awareness rating.

In the Tugon ng Masa face-to-face survey dated Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, OCTA found that more than half of Filipinos nationwide are aware of Go Negosyo.

“Most people are not aware of NGOs (non-government organizations), or what they do,” said professor Ranjit Rye.

“To be known nationally for an advocacy, that is already a success. And when you breach 50 percent (awareness rating), that’s already an accomplishment,” he added.

Among the survey’s 1,200 adult respondents, 66 percent have heard of Go Negosyo. The highest awareness rating (81 percent) is among respondents in the National Capital Region (NCR), followed by Mindanao (67 percent), Visayas (63 percent) and Luzon (53 percent).

“This is seven out of ten people in the NCR being aware of Go Negosyo,” Rye noted.

Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion asserted that the numbers “show that many Filipinos – regardless of socio-economic class – aspire to become entrepreneurs.”

The survey noted that awareness of Go Negosyo was almost equally distributed among socio-economic classes: 56 percent in Class ABC, 58 percent in Class D and 62 percent in Class E.

Concepcion said they aim to use the high awareness rating to further develop Go Negosyo’s free public mentoring mall roadshows and programs with the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Education and Department of Agriculture.

He added that they are working with the country’s largest corporations to involve the private sector in helping micro, small and medium enterprises.

MANILA, Philippines — The remains of Paul Castelvi, who was among four overseas Filipino workers (OFW) killed during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel, will arrive home soon, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Castelvi’s wife and child will bring his ashes back to the Philippines.

“The welfare officer in Israel is currently processing the documents of Jovelle and her baby in anticipation of their return to the Philippines,” OWWA posted on Facebook.

The two are expected to arrive before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the 11th batch of Filipino workers affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict is coming home today.

The Department of Migrant Workers reported that the latest batch of 27 OFWs from Israel is comprised of 25 caregivers and two hotel workers.

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to ratify today the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“We’re ratifying the budget tomorrow (Monday),” Zubiri told The STAR yesterday when asked to give an update on the budget.

The budget approval will be done days before Congress goes on Christmas break.

Senate and House of Representatives contingents will convene the second bicameral conference committee to tackle disagreeing votes for House Bill 8980 or the General Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2024.

The meeting will be held at the Makati Shangri-La.

A Senate staff familiar with the proceedings said that “bicam members will have a symbolic signing of the approved bicam report today.”

After the signing, senators and congressmen will report at the Senate and the House in the afternoon where their respective reports will be ratified by both houses.

The bill will be registered, printed and transmitted to Malacañang.

“Hopefully, before Christmas, the budget will be signed by President Marcos,” the Senate staff said.

After the first bicam that was held last Nov. 30, senators and congressmen gave assurance that there would be no last-minute move to restore the P650-million confidential funds (CF) in the 2024 budgets for the office of Vice President Sara Duterte and the Department of Education, which she also heads.

For the 2024 budget, a restoration was ruled out after Duterte herself told Congress that she was no longer interested in seeking CF for next year, following backlash for her use of secret funds traditionally reserved for intelligence and security agencies.

The Senate said the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for next year would strengthen local production through modernization, mechanization and improved logistics; defend sovereignty; and ensure Filipinos’ safety against anyone who threatens violence.

Zubiri has designated senators to be among bicam members to help harmonize conflicting provisions of the 2024 budget with the House of Representatives.

Led by Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee, bicam members include Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Bato dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Go, Risa Hontiveros, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Mark Villar, Francis Tolentino, JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada.

The Department of Budget and Management earlier said a total of P10.14 billion in confidential and intelligence funds are being requested across certain government agencies.

The amount includes the request for CIFs of P4.5 billion from the Office of the President, or P2.25-billion confidential and P2.31-billion intelligence fund.

The Office of the Vice President requested P500 million while the DepEd asked for P150 million.

The offices of the senators have yet to disclose the total amount of requested CIFs that were retained or realigned.

Aside from education, the budget is also focused on the health system, which will get P243.36 billion; the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps and fuel subsidies under the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s aid, such as the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, which will get P49.8 billion, Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances or AICS, which will have P56.3 billion; Sustainable Livelihood Program; cash-for-work under the KALAHI-CIDSS with an additional P1 billion and the supplementary feeding program with P6.1 billion.

The government will still make education a priority for every Filipino youth, according to Angara.

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