The House of Representatives passed the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year on final reading, paving the way for the Senate to tackle the spending bill in the plenary.
House passes P4.5-T national budget for 2021
Xave Gregorio ( - October 16, 2020 - 8:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives passed Friday the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year on final reading, paving the way for the Senate to tackle the spending bill in the plenary.

Voting 257-6, the lower chamber approved the fiscal plan on third reading after months of deliberations.

Senators are now calling on House lawmakers to send the budget bill to the upper chamber as soon as possible to allow them more time to deliberate on the fiscal plan.

“If they will pass on third reading tomorrow, I cannot understand why they would transmit the GAB (General Appropriations Bill) to us November 5, unless they again plan to amend after third reading,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a mix of English and Filipino on Thursday.

House appropriations committee chair Rep. Eric Yap (ACT-CIS party-list) says they will be able to transmit copies of the proposed budget to senators by October 28, but it would not yet be official copies encoded and printed by the National Printing Office (NPO).

"I cannot let my speaker down. It will be on October 28," Yap said in a mix of English and Filipino. "But it won't be the hard copy. Whatever we submit to the NPO, that's what we will give the Senate."

Senate Finance committee chair Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara told in an online exchange that they can start debates on the proposed budget by the week of November 9.

“We moved the calendar back a week to give more time for Senate debate and for the bicameral conferences," Angara said.

The Senate cut its break short by a week and will resume session on November 9 instead of November 16. The House concurred with this move.

The fiscal plan was passed after months of deliberations in the lower house, which were abruptly halted for four days by the previous leadership and only resumed when President Rodrigo Duterte called for a special session of Congress from October 13 to 16.

Despite this, the House leadership is confident that the spending bill will be passed on time, while Malacañang sees Duterte signing it into law by the end of the year, preventing the government from operating on a reenacted budget by 2021.

Operating on a reenacted budget would mean using the spending plan for 2020, which does not take into account the coronavirus pandemic.

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