Senate President Vicente Sotto III last week said he would not sign the enrolled copy of the General Appropriations Bill unless the House of Representatives withdraws all the changes it made amounting to over P95 billion into an already ratified budget.
Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal
Sotto: ‘Door is now open’ to resolve budget row
(Philstar.com) - March 21, 2019 - 2:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — Congress is now close to breaking a deadlock that has delayed the enactment of the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 after the House of Representatives recalled its copy of the spending plan that was sent to senators, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Sotto last week said he would not sign the enrolled copy of the General Appropriations Bill unless the House withdraws all the changes it made amounting to over P95 billion into an already ratified budget.

In a “last-ditch effort” to resolve the budget row, House appropriations committee chair Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur) on Wednesday said the House leadership has dispatched the secretary general to the Senate to “physically retrieve” the budget documents that were sent to the senators.

“Perhaps what we could say is that the door is now open for a possible cure for the impasse,” Sotto told reporters on Thursday.

“The entire Senate, I’m sure, supports it contrary to what a congressman is saying. The entire Senate supports the fact that we want to approve, or the president to sign something, a bill that the Senate ratified and that the House also ratified faithful to what we have agreed upon,” he added.

“I’m glad that they have retrieved it.”

The squabble has delayed the signing of the budget bill by President Rodrigo Duterte, who said he would not approve an “illegal document.” This is the first time since the Arroyo administration that the government has resorted to running on a re-enacted budget.

Andaya previously insisted that the House only “itemized” the lump sums created during the bicameral conference committee on the budget bill, adding that the Senate also did the same to the spending plan after it was ratified.

On Wednesday, Andaya maintained that the House was “not withdrawing or backtracking from our earlier position.”

“We maintain that the House did nothing unconstitutional, illegal or irregular when we approved and ratified the 2019 GAB in plenary session,” he said.

“We hope that the contingents from the Senate and the House can agree to a common venue for a formal discussion on the issues and not debate on the merits of their position through the media,” he added.

The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee last week cut its 2019 gross domestic product growth projection to 6-7 percent from 7-8 percent originally as new projects remain unfunded due to the budget deadlock.

Separately, the National Economic and Development Authority said the economy could expand by 4.2-4.9 percent this year if the new spending plan were enacted as late as August. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

2019 NATIONAL BUDGET
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