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Philippines Reports Budget Surplus in Early 2024, Aiming for Fiscal HealthPhilippine Senate Reviews Medical Cannabis Bill to Aid Patients

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Finance (DOF) has revealed that the Philippine government achieved a notable budget surplus in the initial months of 2024, signaling a positive trend in the nation's fiscal management.

According to Philippines News Agency, the surplus is attributed to significant year-on-year revenue growth coupled with measured increases in government spending.

During a briefing related to the Philippines' hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Roundtable, Secretary Recto announced that for January and February 2024, government revenues were up by 20 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, while expenditures increased by only 10 percent. This fiscal performance resulted in a substantial budget surplus, highlighting effective revenue collection and expenditure management.

Data from the Bureau of the Treasury underscored this achievement, showing an impressive PHP88 billion surplus in January alone, nearly doubling the surplus recorded in January 2023. The increase in total revenues, which reached PHP421.8 billion for the month, surpassed the PHP348.2 billion recorded the previous year, while government spending was contained at PHP333.99 billion.

Secretary Recto emphasized the DOF's ongoing efforts to bolster the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC), focusing on enhancing tax collection efficiency. By providing these agencies with detailed data analyses, the government aims to identify key areas and entities for targeted tax collection efforts.

Looking ahead, the Development Budget Coordination Committee has set an ambitious revenue target of PHP4.3 trillion for the year. Achieving this goal would represent a significant step toward sustaining the Philippines' fiscal health and supporting its broader economic objectives.

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Robinhood Padilla has successfully advanced the Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines, or Senate Bill (SB) No. 2573, to the Senate plenary, highlighting a potential shift in the country's approach to medical cannabis. The bill, endorsed by 13 senators under Committee Report No. 210, aims to establish a regulated framework for the medical use of cannabis, ensuring access for qualified patients while maintaining strict oversight.

According to Philippines News Agency, SB 2573 is designed with robust safeguards to monitor the entire process from cultivation to patient delivery, employing electronic systems to ensure compliance with legal standards. The bill specifies that only patients who meet certain qualifications will be allowed to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes within designated facilities.

Key provisions in SB 2573 include restrictions on physicians, who must possess an S2 license to prescribe medical cannabis. Prescriptions would be prohibited if patients do not meet the criteria, if the intended use is not for a specific medical condition, or if the dosage exceeds the patient's needs. Additionally, medical practitioners are barred from prescribing cannabis to themselves or their close relatives.

Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, chair of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, expressed his support for the bill, referencing the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which emphasizes the need for balance in drug control to ensure patients have access to necessary medications. Dela Rosa affirmed that the bill aligns with government policies and would provide significant relief to patients suffering from various ailments.

Under the proposed legislation, the Philippine Medical Cannabis Authority (PMCA) would be established within the Department of Health (DOH), mirroring the structure of Israel's Medical Cannabis Agency. The PMCA would be responsible for issuing permits, regulating medical cannabis use, and overseeing industry participants. It would also spearhead research and development initiatives and maintain a registry of patients and approved products.

An advisory committee, led by the DOH Secretary and including key agency heads, would provide additional oversight and guidance. Patients would be required to register with the PMCA to receive an identification number and a QR-coded registry card.

The list of permissible medical cannabis products includes edibles, pills, oils, tinctures, flowers, topicals, and inhalers, with the goal of providing varied and appropriate options for patient treatment. As the bill progresses through the Senate, stakeholders anticipate a comprehensive debate on its provisions and potential impacts on healthcare and drug policy in the Philippines.