Reenacted budget likely in effect until January 2019 – Zubiri
MANILA, Philippines – Given the limited time the Senate has to deliberate on the proposed 2019 budget, Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri said a reenacted budget until January next year is likely.
Zubiri told reporters on Wednesday, November 21, that the reenacted budget may last during the first two weeks up to the entire 4 weeks of January 2019.
“Technically, magkakaroon tayo ng reenacted budget (we are going to have a reenacted budget), two weeks to one month,” he said.
Zubiri explained this is because senators only have 6 days left this year to debate on the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019. The House only approved the 2019 budget on 3rd and final reading on Tuesday, November 20, more than a month since it approved the bill on 2nd reading.
The 17th Congress is set to adjourn session for the holidays on December 12 and will reopen on January 14, 2019.
“Our colleagues like Senator Ping Lacson and Senator Ralph Recto said it’s very difficult to be able to discuss intelligently and lengthily the pertinent provisions of the budget at the short period of time,” said Zubiri in a mix of English and Filipino.
“So we are looking at the bicam (bicameral conference committee) during the break, and then ratification when we return on January 14. At the very least, the week of January 14 to 16 will be the ratification,” he added.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr said the lower chamber respects the Senate's timetable. He said they understand senators would like to properly assess the 2019 national budget as well.
"In the event there will be a slight delay in the enactment of the General Appropriations Law for 2019, we are confident that the established rules on the use of the reenacted budget during the short, interim period will apply without affecting the operations of the government, nor curb the delivery of services to the people, or radically setback the timetable of public projects," said Andaya.
'Ill-conceived projects' in 2019 budget?
The House approved the budget without finishing proposed amendments. Andaya said suggested reallocations are still coming in from the executive branch, even President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
Andaya said they needed to "overhaul certain segments" of the budget, but made sure none of Duterte's major programs were scrapped.
He said, however, that the House believes some of these suggested reallocations are funds for "ill-conceived projects."
"Although we saw the need to overhaul certain segments of the budget – because after verification, we discovered that the proposed projects were not what the people wanted – we decided to retain them, and just conveyed to the President our belief that the ill-conceived projects be implemented with the strictest oversight," said Andaya, who did not give further details.
The House minority bloc also said they were “concerned” that the 2019 budget might be illegally used for the May elections.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the rest of the House leadership uncovered more than P50 billion worth of allegedly “misplaced” funds inserted into the 2019 budget.
Sources said the money was "parked" under several allocations and was meant to benefit lawmakers favored by then-speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s party mate.
The House has moved to realign P51.792 billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which was originally allocated for infrastructure projects across 15 regions. The money will instead go to other projects of the DPWH and other state agencies. But these allocations are yet to be itemized.
The House also wants to extend the availability of certain funds under the current 2018 budget so the government can continue funding ongoing rehabilitation efforts, including the reconstruction of war-torn Marawi City. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com