MANILA, Philippines – Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate supports Malacañang’s proposed cash-based budgeting for 2019. (READ: What is cash-based budgeting?)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda relayed the chamber’s position after an all-senators caucus was held on Tuesday, August 14.
“The entire Senate, in caucus, have agreed to support the President’s [cash-based budgeting,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.
“The Senate supports a cash-based budgeting system that will help discipline the bureaucracy, addressing the problem of underspending, which has long plagued the government,” Legarda also said in a statement.
This means only the House is getting in the way of the passage of the 2019 budget, after it suspended hearings. The Senate’s stand, however, is not enough to ensure the 2019 budget’s timely passage, as House approval is needed. (READ: House ‘blocking’ 2019 budget – Malacañang)
Under the rules, the executive branch’s proposed 2019 budget, or the National Expenditure Program (NEP), must first undergo House scrutiny. The House would then pass its version of the general appropriations bill (GAB), which would then be transmitted to the Senate.
The Senate would then pass its own version of the GAB, and then lawmakers would form a bicameral conference committee to finalize the bill.
Hearings to continue
While this is the case, the Senate in practice conducts parallel budget hearings to ensure an efficient process.
Sotto and Legarda said the Senate would continue hearings on agencies’ proposed budgets, but these would be based on the NEP and not the GAB.
These hearings, however, could be likened to fact-finding sessions, as senators wouldn’t move for the committee approval of agencies’ budgets.
“The Senate committee on finance will continue to conduct budget hearings based on the 2019 NEP that was submitted to Congress and we will introduce amendments as necessary,” Legarda said.
Early Tuesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno met with Legarda and House appropriations committee chairman Karlo Nograles over the deadlock, but failed to reach an agreement.
“Sabi ko kay Karlo at kay Secretary Ben, mag-usap kayo. Sa LEDAC daw nila ire-resolve (I told Karlo and Secretary Ben that they should settle the issue. They said they will resolve it in the LEDAC [Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council),” Legarda said in an interview.
Senators are united in opposing a reenacted budget, which some said is reminiscent of the administration of former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Ayaw namin ng reenacted (We do not want a reenacted budget),” Legarda said.
Supposedly the first cash-based budget of the government, the proposed 2019 budget amounts to P3.757 trillion, representing 19.3% of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) for next year.
This amount is slightly lower compared to the P3.767-trillion 2018 budget. – Rappler.com