Alvarez to Senate: Restore P50B or we have reenacted budget for 2018
MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez warned that the national government will be operating on a reenacted budget come January if the Senate would insist on the P50 billion it had removed from the proposed 2018 budget and which caught congressmen by surprise.
On Friday, December 1, Alvarez said the House of Representatives would take a "hard stance" and fight for its version of the 2018 national budget in the bicameral conference committee.
"We at the House of Representatives have agreed to take a hard stance on this matter because what we have discussed and approved at the House of Representatives, that's what we want to pass," Alvarez, speaking in Filipino, said in a radio interview.
Alvarez said that if the disagreements between two chambers is not be settled, the 2017 national budget of P3.35 trillion will instead be "reenacted."
The proposed 2018 national budget amounts to P3.767 trillion and is 12.4% higher than the 2017 budget. The figure represents 21.6% of the projected gross domestic product for 2018.
"Ngayon, kung hindi kami magkasundo doon ay magre-enact na lang tayo ng budget noong nakaraan. Tabla-tabla na lang," Alvarez said. (Now, if we don't agree [on the matter], then we will just reenact the current (2017) budget. We're even.)
Under the law, failure to pass the appropriations bill before the end of the fiscal year would mean a reenacted budget until Congress approves the bill. (READ: Slides and Ladders: Understand the budget process)
The last day of the congressional session for 2017 is on December 13.
On Thursday, contingents of both chambers convened the bicameral committee for the first time to reconcile differences in their appoved versions of the budget bill. The Senate passed its version of the 2018 budget two months after the House passed its own.
Among those contested by the House is the P50 billion cut in the Department of Public Works and Highways budget. Senator Panfilo Lacson, in fact, was pushing that aside from the P50 billion allocated for right-of-way payments, they should remove another P18 billion from the DPWH budget representing a "lump sum."
The House also opposed Senate's realignment of the P900-million allocation for Oplan Double Barrel project of the Philippine National Police to housing projects for police and military.
Advantages of reenacted budget
Alvarez said a reenacted budget has its own "advantages," because that means department agencies can spend the allocations on any projects they want. This is because some items were assigned to programs or projects that shall have been completed — the money will be there, but no old program to use it for.
The Speaker, however, said he was still hopeful the House and the Senate would "reach a consensus" on the final version of the appropriations bill.
Reenacted budgets are vulnerable to corruption and misuse. Budgets were reenacted 4 times during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (READ: TIMELINE: Gloria Arroyo – from plunder to acquittal)
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had previously vowed to correct past government spending habits, and stressed there would be "no reenacted budget in the next 6 years." – Rappler.com