Let there be no fur­ther de­lay in bud­get ap­proval

Tempo - - News -

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.

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