The Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives met yesterday to begin deliberation on the proposed national budget for 2020.
The House is determined to avoid the debacle last year when Congress was able to approve the national budget for signing by President Duterte only last March, when It should have been approved in December, 2018, so the government could begin to use it at the start of the new year 2019.
The delay was caused by a dispute between the House and the Senate on P75 billion which some congressmen insisted on including in the budget, a huge amount the senators suspected to be “pork barrel” funds intended to benefit some congressmen. That delay was truly unfortunate, for it kept the government from initiating important economic and social programs, such as many public works projects and salary increases
At the center of last year’s dispute in Congress was the practice of “parking” billions of public funds in various areas of the budget without any specific details on how and where they are to be used. There was P54 billion listed for “flood mitigation.” There was P75 billion placed in the budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways, but without any specific projecst.
The P75 billion was specially suspect; it could be used later for any projects proposed by some congressmen. Such discretionary funds had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 2014.
This year, acting Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado assured, there are no parked funds in the proposed budget he submitted to the House last Tuesday. “Every centavo has an identified purpose,” he said.
With the public attention focused on the budget this year, we are confident that we will not have last year’s problem of parked funds. We expect the coming budget deliberations to be open and businesslike, as congressmen, and later the senators, examine the proposed budget.
It will be a record P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget, 12 percent higher than the P3.662-trillion 2019 budget. It includes P1.25 trillion for education and other social services, P1.18 trillion for economic services, P734.5 billion for general public services, P451 billion for debt burden, and P195.6 billion for defense.
We have today a great start on the budget in Congress. We have, it is hoped, learned our lesson from last year’s experience when we tolerated the antics of certain congressmen seeking to benefit from budget funds. We have a new Congress and we should have no problem of the kind we had last year.
Tags: Roni Santiago