Senate sub-panel OKs PCO’s 2024 proposed budget

The proposed budget of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) is to be presented to the Senate plenary after passing the deliberation by the Senate Committee on Finance's Subcommittee presided over by Senator JV Ejercito on Monday. The PCO, including its attached agencies, is requesting PHP1.921 billion for its various programs and continuing modernization. Expressing his full support for the PCO's proposed 2024 budget, Ejercito emphasized the very important role of the agency in bringing the government closer to the people. "Mga balita at impormasyon din ang nagsisilbing daluyan ng komunikasyon ng pamahalaan sa ating taumbayan. Ang realidad, bawat administrasyon ay hinuhusgahan sa dami at kalidad ng mga proyekto at mga programang nagawa o napatupad. Dito higit na makikita ang kahalagahan ng PCO (News and information serve as channel of communication of the government to our people. The reality is that every administration is being judged with its projects and programs. From here, we will see the importance of the PCO)," Ejercito said. "Naniniwala po ako na dapat tayong mamuhunan sa larangan ng impormasyon at pagbabalita (I believe that we should invest in the field of information and reporting)," he added. Under its proposed budget in the National Expenditure Program, the PCO proper is requesting PHP495.768 million (28 percent); PHP179.485 million (10 percent) for Radio Television Malacañang; PHP378.914 million (21 percent) for the Philippine Information Agency; PHP147.036 million (8 percent) for the News and Information Bureau; PHP13 million (1 percent) for the National Printing Office; PHP95.638 million (5 percent) for the Bureau of Communications Services; PHP482.011 million (27 percent) for the Philippine Broadcasting Service; and a government subsidy for the People's Television Network worth PHP128.914 million for its modernization. PCO Secretary Cheloy Garafil admitted to the sub-panel that the agency's transition from Office Of the Press Secretary was challenging considering the larger scope of mandates and manpower, but likewise gave the office the advantage. "Nakikita din naman namin na yung setup makes sense kasi mas napapadali po yung trabaho namin sa pagsuporta sa kay Presidente sa kanyang (We can also see that the setup makes sense because it makes our job easier in supporting the President in his) information and communication demands or requirements," Garafil said. Executive Order No. 16, issued by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in February this year, reorganized the PCO giving it five functional areas, each headed by an undersecretary. These functional areas are Traditional Media and External Affairs, Content Production, Broadcast Production, Digital Media Services, and Operations, Administration and Finance. Meanwhile, Ejercito expressed his support for the PCO campaign against disinformation, emphasizing the necessity for the agency and its attached agencies to be "well-equipped" in countering the proliferation of false and misleading information. The senator said the agency should be given "more teeth" and should be provided with "necessary tools" to help combat fake news. "It is really a challenge right now because of the advent of technology. It's also difficult... Yung mainstream media may accountability, di ba? (The mainstream media has an accountability, right?) That's the main difference so this is why we need dapat mag-double time ang PCO (the PCO should double time) on how we will be able to disseminate information so that it will address fake news," Ejercito said. Garafil said the agency has been focusing and working with other government agencies to address the problem. "Talagang ang fake news is one of the priorities of our agency. Since I assumed last year, ito talaga yung ginawan namin ng paraan para at least malagyan siya ng isang specific program para ma-address ito kasi kami rin, if you will notice, nagiging biktima rin ng ([Combating] fake news is really one of the priorities of our agency. Since I assumed last year, we alloted a specific program to address this because if you notice, even us are also being affected by) fake news," she said. Last month, the PCO launched the Media Information and Literacy (MIL) campaign led by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. together with the Departments of the Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Education, and the Commission on Higher Education. During the budget deliberation, PCO Undersecretary for Digital Media Services Emerald Anne Ridao said the MIL campaign is a result of a survey saying 9 out of 10 Filipinos feel affected by misinformation and disinformation. "What we have done is we have addressed this problem starting from the more vulnerable sectors moving on the rest of the society, So based also on the same survey, the youth actually po ang pinaka-vulnerable for now kasi sila po yung mas madalas na online and mas madalas gumagamit ng (are the most vulnerable for now because they are more frequently online and using) digital devices," Ridao said. She said they will proceed engaging with other sectors, such as the senior citizens, in the following years. Apart from government agencies, the PCO also partnered with social media companies for the campaign's wider reach. The agency is looking forward to an additional PHP16 million budget in 2024 for the MIL campaign.

Source: Philippines News Agency