Let there be no further delay in budget approval
WHEN Congress resumes its sessions tomorrow, January 14, the Senate has vowed to concentrate its efforts on the ₱3.757-trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2019 which it had not been able to approve in time for the new year.
Because the budget for 2019 was not approved by Congress last December, the national government has had to operate with a reenacted 2018 budget, as provided by the Constitution. The normal operations of the national government thus continue to be funded, but not the special projects and programs approved by Congress for inclusion in the 2019 budget.
Malacañang has, therefore, asked Congress to act swiftly on the 2019 budget so the new projects, such as major infrastructures under “Build, Build, Build” can be carried out. The proposed 2019 budget also includes the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law which cannot be implemented until the new 2019 budget is approved.
The original reason for the delayed approval of the budget was the Senate’s desire to scrutinize the bill approved by the House as it allegedly contained many lump sums that were actually “pork barrel” for certain legislators. The Senate had only two weeks to work on the budget before the Christmas break, so it was not approved before the year ended.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, assured that as soon as the Senate meets tomorrow, it will concentrate on the budget bill. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said, in response to Malacañang’s appeal, that the Senate will approve the bill before the end of this month. Senator Sotto, however, added; “I don’t know about the House of Representatives.” – as if he foresees a new delay because of the House.
But the House already approved its version of the General Appropriations Bill, which it transmitted to the Senate last November. The new complaints aired by some congressmen of excessive public works funding for certain provinces and alleged favoritism in public works contracts to extended family members of DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno should have been raised and resolved in the House hearings before the House approved the budget bill.
All these issues in both the Senate and the House must be quickly resolved, so that the General Appropriations Bill for 2019 will be approved by Congress and signed by President Duterte into law without further delay.