Duterte to sign 2019 budget before Holy Week

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Duterte to sign 2019 budget before Holy Week
The President, he said, might veto some parts of the appropriations program, but he clarified he was not sure if it would involve the P75-billion pork barrel insertions of the House of Representatives.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is likely to sign the long delayed 2019 budget program before the Holy Week break next week, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

“We are hopeful that the President will sign the budget maybe this week or next week, hopefully before the Holy Week,” Nograles said.

The President, he said, might veto some parts of the appropriations program, but he clarified he was not sure if it would involve the P75-billion pork barrel insertions of the House of Representatives.

Congress transmitted the P3.757-trillion budget last March 26 to the President after months of impasse among senators and congressmen over alleged pork barrel insertions and realignments.

Duterte had publicly vowed not to sign a budget measure that would be found with provisions deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. 

“Every year, the President has a veto message and that is part of the prerogative of the President,” he said. “So, ideally, by practice… historically, there is always a veto message by the President when it comes to the budget.”

Due to the delay, Nograles also said the executive branch might ask for a joint resolution from members of the next Congress to extend the validity of the 2019 budget beyond the fiscal year. 

The Palace is inclined to request for such authority if it is not provided for in the 2019 budget, the Palace official said. Such authority, he said, is aimed at speeding up the implementation and completion of infrastructure projects.

Without such authority, some projects for 2019 may have to be carried over to 2020, hence crowding out some projects intended for next year.

“It will be good for the economy because infra projects generate jobs. But I hope we don’t get choked by the larger number of projects,” he said.

Since the government is now working on a re-enacted budget, Nograles admitted that many of the administration’s infrastructure projects have been derailed, particularly those that have not yet started.

Nograles, a former congressman, said there should be closer coordination between Malacañang and the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) on the crafting of a national expenditure program.

“I think (we need) closer coordination. It really depends on Congress. As far as the executive branch is concerned, (we are) on time on submitting the budget, in fact much, much earlier, because the executive branch national expenditure program was submitted 30 days earlier,” Nograles said.

President Duterte presented the budget proposal to Congress at his State of the Nation Address last year, or more than enough time – according to some quarters – for lawmakers to work on it.

“It really depends on both houses of Congress on how fast they will transmit the GAB (General Appropriations Bill) to the executive branch,” Nograles said.

To allow concerned government agencies, particularly the Department of Public Works and Highways, to implement infrastructure projects set for the year, Nograles said Congress may have to add a provision that would allow the disbursement of the 2019 appropriations until end 2020.

“Under a reenacted budget, you cannot implement capital outlay or infrastructure projects because the reenacted budget will just follow the itemized listing of infrastructure projects of the previous year,” he said.

“And obviously you can’t cement a road that has already been cemented, or build a bridge that has already been built, and obviously, if you are following the previous year’s itemized budget,” Nograles added.

Further delays in the completion of infra projects, he warned, would slow down the economy. “Without infrastructure spending, the first casualty is the Build Build Build program of the government,” Nograles said.

“Ideally, we want these started at once, but we still have an election ban, so you will have to wait for the election ban to be lifted for you to start your infra projects,” he pointed out.

“If possible, the period of effectivity of the budget should be beyond December 2019 because you can’t finish everything by Dec. 31, 2019 – especially at the onset of the rainy season,” he said.

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