By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The senior vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations admitted yesterday that they are facing a Herculean task of passing the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 on third and final reading before Congress adjourns this week for a scheduled break.
Compostela Valley Representative Maria Carmen Zamora, who sits at the small committee to scrutinize the amendments to the national budget, said they “may not have enough material time” to pass the spending measure before Congress goes on a respite on October 13, but the House leadership is flexing its muscles to approve it on time.
“Based on the volume of work that needs to be done and the fact that we’re still resolving all the matters taken up during the debates, we’ll try our best [to approve the national budget this week], but we may not have enough material time to get it approved on third [and final] reading before the recess,” she said.
The House of Representatives, via viva voce voting, approved House Bill 8169 or the spending bill on second reading last Wednesday night.
Zamora said the members of the small committee are exhausting all means to ensure the immediate passage of the 2019 national budget and its urgent transmittal to the Senate.
“The committee is working round the clock to make up for the lag incurred during the plenary schedule, but rest assured that we’ll be able to pass the 2019 budget on time,” she said.
Delayed by insertions
The plenary debates on the budget measure were delayed after the the alleged P52-billion insertions by former House leadership were uncovered. The supposed insertions were intended for specific legislative districts of some congressmen.
The supposed insertions were realigned to the following items: P5 billion as additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the rehabilitation of areas badly hit by typhoon Ompong, especially Cagayan Valley; P3 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the
Department of Health (DOH); P3 billion for the DOH’s Health Human Resources Development “to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, and doctors and dentists as well”; P1.2 billion for the Capital Outlay of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); P3 billion for Technical-Vocational Laboratories under the Department of Education; P11 billion for roads to decongest traffic in urban areas; P10 billion for roads for identified tourism areas; another P10 billion for roads to trade areas, economic zones, livelihood centers and markets; and P5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) farm-to-market roads (FMRs).
It was House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. who proposed the creation of a small committee to receive and resolve amendments to HB 8169.
House members are expected to submit their individual amendments to the spending bill on Oct. 9, 2018.
Aside from Zamora and Andaya, sitting at the small committee are Reps. Federico Sandoval II, Corazon Nunez-Malanyaon, Anthony Bravo and Edcel Lagman and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.
After a monthlong break, Congress will buckle down to work on Nov. 12, 2018.