By Hannah Torregoza, September 7, 2023; Manila Bulletin

The Senate Committee on Finance has approved the proposed budgets of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the National Security Agency for next year.

NICA has a proposed budget of P1.432-billion under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2024, which is higher by P47-million than its current appropriation under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) which is P1.385-billion.

The National Security Council (NSC) on the other hand, has a proposed P629.278-million for its budget for 2024. NSC’s current budget under the GAA is P418.8-million.

Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito confirmed that the budgets of the NICA and NSA are all “deemed” approve, but senators are eyeing to augment the two agencies budget using funds from other government agencies who proposed confidential and intelligence (CIF) funds.

“We senators are the ones pushing for their budget to be augmented because of the current situation (in the West Philippine Sea),” Ejercito said during the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

“Precisely because we will shift to external defense. We really need to augment our intelligence capabilities because of the situation,” he added.

While both agencies already have some assets ready in their defense, Ejercito said senators are eager to augment their funds.

In a press briefing, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said senators see the need to augment the NICA and NSA’s budget “because we well these are interesting times.”

“And I think we need to give budgets to the NICA and the NSA in terms of (fighting against) cybersecurity. The Philippines is very vulnerable to cyberhacks and cyber-attacks. We have no cybersecurity backbone, Zubiri stressed.

The Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 6, convened the select oversight committee on the confidential and intelligence funds. Senators during the hearing bared plans to transfer excess confidential and intelligence fudns of government to the NICA and the NSA.