By Zaldy De Layola

MANILA – To generate more investments and job opportunities, Congress must ensure that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and its attached agencies have the resources to do its work, AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co on Monday said.

Co, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, said the panel will find ways to augment the budget for the DTI, the country’s main investment promotion agency, whose expenditure proposal was slashed in the 2024 national budget now pending in the House of Representatives.

“We have to spend more to develop the products we export as well as train Filipinos to be entrepreneurs; to be job creators, not seekers. If we could do this, we could prevent our people from voting with their feet,” Co said.

At the budget hearing last week, DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual lamented the decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to set the agency’s expenditure program next year to PHP7.91 billion, an increase from the spending plan this year but just a third of the DTI’s original budget proposal of PHP21.03 billion for 2024.

The Office of the Secretary and the Board of Investments were among the biggest losers in the national expenditure program for 2024.

DBM cut the Office of the Secretary’s budget to PHP5.32 billion from the proposed PHP12.61 billion while the allocation for the BOI was reduced to PHP659 million from the agency’s proposed PHP1.85 billion.

Data comparing DTI’s proposal and the budget DBM submitted to Congress also showed reductions in spending for development projects for industry, and for micro, small and medium enterprises, consumer protection program, Malikhaing Pinoy and establishment of Negosyo Centers.

Pascual said programs designed by DTI to better prepare the economy for newer technologies like artificial intelligence were also left unfunded in the 2024 national expenditure program.

Many lawmakers share Co’s sentiment and pledged support to find ways to supplement, if not increase, DTI’s budget, its attached agencies and its various investment-promotion and job-creation programs.

Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, a senior vice chairman of the appropriations committee, said the need to provide more financial support for DTI and its programs is highlighted by the slowdown in gross domestic product growth to 4.3 percent in the second quarter from 6.4 percent in the first quarter. (PNA)