House submits 2020 budget to Senate
The Senate has received the House of Representatives-approved General Appropriations Bill for 2020, Sen. Sonny Angara said yesterday.
Miguel de Guzman
House submits 2020 budget to Senate
(The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives yesterday made good its commitment to transmit the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year to the Senate for its consideration and approval.

“Upon the instruction of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, we met our self-imposed deadline to send the budget to the Senate,” appropriations committee chairman Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City told reporters.

He said early transmittal of the proposed 2020 outlay would give senators enough time to consider and pass it.

“We want the expenditure program to be approved and enacted before the end of the year to avoid a repeat of what we experienced early this year, when the government had to run on a reenacted budget,” he said.

Before printing the budget and sending it to the Senate, the House introduced a few changes in the outlay.

At a news conference, Cayetano detailed the changes, which are augmentations given to 12 agencies.

The realignments are P3.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s palay procurement fund, increasing it to P10.5 billion; P1 billion each for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police; P800 million for the Department of Education; and P500 million each for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine General Hospital, National Electrification Administration, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Philippine Sports Commission.

The Department of Transportation received an additional P275 million for the Davao International Airport, while the Dangerous Drugs Board was given P250 million for the improvement of community-based drug rehab centers.

Some P200 million was added to the Department of Health, which could use part of the allocation to combat the polio outbreak and the continuing threat of dengue.

“As you can see, there is no pork in those augmentations. If the critics claim otherwise, they should point to us where the pork is; otherwise, their accusations are just rumors. And my mother taught me not to respond to rumors or I will be another rumormonger,” Cayetano told reporters.

Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales said contrary to the allegation of some senators, the budget as approved by the House is “pork-free.”

“We strictly followed the decision of the Supreme Court declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (the previous name of the congressional pork barrel) and prohibiting post-budget enactment identification of projects (by lawmakers). Now, senators can finally see the budget for themselves,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman said the House approved the 2020 budget early “to avoid the kind of costly delay we had this year, which cost the economy about P500 billion and slowed down economic growth.

“This really took its toll on the economy. It meant fewer jobs created and lesser income for our people. It meant scaled down government services,” he said.

He said Cayetano wanted the House to prevent a repeat of the budget enactment delay early this year.

Romero noted that President Duterte signed the budget bill only in April, when an appropriations law should have been in place before the end of last year.

“We have to achieve higher economic growth with early releases of funds for infrastructure projects, social services like cash assistance to the poor and other programs and activities,” he said.

House sources told reporters that early House approval of the budget was also requested by several senators, who are scheduled to celebrate some occasions or milestones abroad, and attend international conferences starting next weekend.

Such conferences, which some House members are attending as well, are usually considered as junkets and vacations at the expense of taxpayers.

Wrangling between senators and congressmen on billions in alleged pork barrel insertions delayed this year’s enactment of the budget.

President Duterte signed the budget bill in April after vetoing P95 billion in last-minute realignments made by House leaders.

Congressmen whose districts lost funds due to the Duterte veto wanted to recoup the appropriations by adding them to the proposed 2020 outlay, but Cayetano told them it was not possible.

The Senate has received the House of Representatives-approved General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2020, Sen. Sonny Angara said yesterday.

Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, vowed that the Senate will do its part to approve the GAB, the most important piece of legislation, before the year ends.

“Our finance subcommittees are completing the hearings on the proposed budgets of the last few agencies. During the break, we will be consolidating all of the submissions into the committee report and once we resume sessions, we will be ready to sponsor the bill in plenary,” Angara said. – Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero, Edu Punay

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