By Ellson A. Quismorio
The final stage of deliberations on the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 begins with plenary debates today as the House of Representatives exercises its cherished “power of the purse.”
Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, will deliver at 10 a.m. his sponsorship speech for House Bill (HB) No. 6215, the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before the plenary, thus signaling the start of the budget debate stage in the 300-member Lower Chamber.
Nograles said they will strive to finish the plenary debates on Friday, September 8, and have HB No. 6215 passed on third and final reading.
It is expected to be signed into law by President Duterte on or before November 15.
“Passing the national budget before the end of the year is a tradition that Congress intends to keep under the Duterte administration,” Norgrales said.
“Although there is much exigency in passing the GAB this year because of the impending switch to federalism and other matters, we assure the public that we legislators exercised and will exercise the power of the purse to its fullest, as it is our mandate,” he said.
He said two layers of budget discussions were carried out for the whole month of August: first, the exhaustive deliberations with the various agencies at the Committee level; and second, the pre-plenary talks between the congressmen and the same agencies.
During budget deliberations, Nograles used the opportunity to identify possible sources of funds for the newly-signed Republic Act (RA) 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
The Davao solon was able to identify P37.5 billion as stand-by funds for the program, which will be rolled out next year and an initial seed money of P16 billion sourced from the scholarship funds of various government agencies.
Among the agencies lined up for plenary defense today are the proposed budgets of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which will be defended by Nograles; the Department of Finance (DOF), by Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. LRay Villafuerte; the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), by Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda; the Department of Tourism (DOT), by Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit; and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), by Isabela 2nd District Rep. Ana Cristina Go.
Villafuerte, Salceda, Duavit and Go are all vice chairmen of the Appropriations Committee.