Se­nate aims to pass bud­get next week

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By PAOLO ROMERO – With Delon Por­calla, Mary Grace Padin

The Se­nate is aim­ing to pass next week the pro­posed P3.757-tril­lion na­tional bud­get for this year fol­low­ing Mala­cañang’s re­peated ap­peal for Congress to ap­prove the mea­sure as soon as pos­si­ble.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Ralph Recto and Ma­jor­ity Leader Juan Miguel Zu­biri said yes­ter­day the cham­ber hopes to fin­ish de­lib­er­a­tions on the pro­posed bud­gets of the re­main­ing gov­ern­ment agen­cies that have yet to pass through ple­nary this week.

The com­mit­tee on finance chaired by Sen. Loren Le­garda is sched­uled to work on putting amend­ments in the 2019 Gen­eral Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Bill (GAB) pro­posed by sen­a­tors.

“Since this (GAB) is cer­ti­fied as ur­gent, we hope to ap­prove it on sec­ond read­ing, and third and fi­nal read­ing on Mon­day and then ap­prove it, hope­fully, in the bi­cam (bi­cam­eral con­fer- ence com­mit­tee) on Wed­nes­day,” Zu­biri told re­porters.

The bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence com­mit­tee –com­posed of del­e­gates from the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives – when con­vened will rec­on­cile the con­flict­ing pro­vi­sions of their re­spec­tive ver­sions of the GAB.

When asked about the tight sched­ule, Zu­biri said Le­garda has ap­pealed to their col­leagues to work harder in the ple­nary de­lib­er­a­tions to meet the timetable.

“Hope­fully we can do the bi­cam in one day. We need to be able to use funds for ur­gent gov­ern­ment pro­grams be­fore the elec­tion ban sets it,” he said.

Recto said the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the GAB – the fi­nal leg­isla­tive step be­fore the mea­sure is sent to Pres­i­dent Duterte for sign­ing – is sched­uled the fol­low­ing week.

As of press time, sen­a­tors were still de­lib­er­at­ing on the pro­posed P555-bil­lion

bud­get Pub­lic Works of the and Depart­ment High­ways of (DPWH).

The gov­ern­ment should be run­ning on a fresh out­lay start­ing Jan. 1, but Congress was not able to pass the GAB last year.

DPWH bud­get cut eyed

The Se­nate’s plan to re­move the P75-bil­lion ad­di­tional bud­get of the DPWH does not bode well for the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “Build, Build, Build” pro­gram as it could cut the gov­ern­ment’s spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture, the Depart­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment (DBM) said yes­ter­day.

While amend­ing the pro­posed bud­get is part of the pow­ers of Congress, Bud­get Sec­re­tary Ben­jamin Dio­kno said cut­ting the DPWH’s bud­get could re­duce the gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture and the num­ber of po­ten­tial jobs that could be gen­er­ated in the con­struc­tion sec­tor.

“That’s within the power of Congress. It may opt to agree, amend or man­gle the Pres­i­dent’s bud­get. The Pres­i­dent pro­poses the bud­get, Congress au­tho­rizes,” Dio­kno said.

Sen­a­tors have agreed to re­move the P75-bil­lion al­lo­ca­tion for the DPWH, Sen. Pan­filo Lac­son said yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Dio­kno, the DPWH orig­i­nally pro­posed a bud­get of P652 bil­lion for 2019, but only P480 bil­lion of this amount was ini­tially ap­proved by the DBM.

The bud­get chief said the DBM de­cided to aug­ment this with P75 bil­lion, for a to­tal of P555 bil­lion, to en­sure that the gov­ern­ment’s in­fra­struc­ture ex­pen­di­tures reach at least five per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct as tar­geted.

BOL funds

Dio­kno has al­legedly ex­cluded in this year’s bud­get the P10-bil­lion sup­posed al­lo­ca­tion for the Bangsamoro Or­ganic Law (BOL).

“I hate to be the one to burst the bub­ble. The DBM has not al­lo­cated a bud­get, not a sin­gle cen­tavo, for the BOL plebiscite,” House Ma­jor­ity Leader Rolando An­daya Jr. said yes­ter­day. “The prospect of last­ing peace in Min­danao is in peril.”

“Every­body is pray­ing for the suc­cess of the BOL plebiscite on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6. Yet no­body is ask­ing if we have the funds nec­es­sary to con­duct the plebiscite,” An­daya said.

He said the Com­elec needs P857 mil­lion for the BOL plebiscite.


Sen­a­tors speak with Pub­lic Works and High­ways Sec­re­tary Mark Vil­lar af­ter the ple­nary ses­sion yes­ter­day.

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