There will be no delay this year in the approval of the national budget. Congress approved the 2020 National Appropriation Bill for P4.1 trillion last Wednesday. A bicameral conference committee had reconciled differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill and the two chambers approved the final bill, which will now be sent to President Duterte for his signature.
In contrast, the 2019 P3.662-triliion budget bill was delayed four months in Congress which approved it only in April, 2019. As result, all government programs scheduled for the first four months of 2019 could not be carried out. The Senate finally decided to just go along with the House version, and just informed President Duterte that it contained P75 billion in “pork barrel.” And he simply vetoed the P75 billion.
This year, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the new budget may have some P83-billion inserted by congressmen which he suspects to be “pork barrel” funds. These had been added to the administration’s original budgets for the Department of Public Works and other departments.
Lacson said the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office was able to get from the House of Representatives a “Source File” containing 1,253 items with a total funding of P83.21 billion and another “List File” with 742 projects with a total funding of P1.34 billion. “Since there is no preliminary explanation from the House regarding the two files, we cannot ascertain if indeed only P16.345 billion or the bigger amount of P83.219 billion was inserted at the last minute prior to the bicameral signing,” Lacson said.
Against Lacson’s suspicions and charges, Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said Friday that in compliance with the President’s instructions, the 2020 budget bill contains no pork, no last-minute insertions, and no parked funds. All changes made by the House were aligned with the President’s priorities and based on recommendations of the Cabinet departments and other government agencies, he said.
The question of pork barrel in the budget will have to be decided by the Office of the President. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the budget bill from Congress will undergo a thorough scrutiny and any provision that runs counter to the Constitution will be vetoed, he said.
We have full confidence in President Duterte and his men in the administration looking after the public works and other economic undertakings planned for 2020. And we must welcome the fact that there will be no budget delay this year.
Tags: PAUL ROCA