MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno blamed Congress for the delayed approval of the 2019 budget, which will result to a temporary reenacted budget next year.
But the budget chief on Tuesday, November 27, refused to identify which specific lawmakers were responsible for the delay. (READ: Budget deadlock: Who’s to blame?)
“You just have to follow the timeline. I cannot make the decision for you who is at fault here. Remember, the reason why we submitted the budget on the day of the SONA [to the House of Representatives] is to give them enough time so this will not happen. They can’t blame us. That’s very clear. We’ve done our job,” Diokno said in a press briefing.
Diokno said the National Expenditure Program for 2019 was submitted “30 days” ahead of the constitutional deadline to give House lawmakers ample time to review the budget.
“The President has done his job. The ball is in Congress’ court. It is the collective responsibility of legislators to approve the General Appropriations Bill before they go on a holiday break. Duty first before leisure,” Diokno said.
The Senate announced on Monday, November 26, that the P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 should be approved by the first week of February next year.
The Senate received the budget bill from the House of Representatives on Monday, but it would not be able to scrutinize it before session adjourns on December 15 due to lack of time.
This means that the government will be operating on “reenacted budget,” therefore using the P3.767-trillion funds appropriated in 2018 for the first few months of 2019.
Diokno highlighted some grave implications of a reenacted budget, such as the delayed rollout of new projects and salary increases for government personnel.
The budget chief added that the delay would “disrupt” the momentum gained in eliminating underspending and performance in the government infrastructure program “Build, Build, Build.”
“The 2018 capital outlays cannot be reenacted because projects funded in 2018 are assured to have been obligated or done in 2018. No new projects can start until the 2019 General Appropriations Act is passed, signed into law, and has become effective,” he said.
“This delay due to a reenacted budget will disrupt our momentum, hindering us from continuing this impressive performance. Add to this the election ban from March to May and you have a 5-month implementation gap for our infrastructure projects,” he added.
Diokno said, however, that internal revenue allotment for local government units (LGUs) would not be adversely affected by a reenacted budget.
Projects that are part of larger infrastructure programs which have been given a multi-year obligation authority will not be affected, as well as those funded by LGUs.
Debt service for foreign and domestic creditors is also automatically appropriated, thus there is “nothing to worry about,” he said.
Reenacted budget ‘only for months’
Diokno gave assurances that the department “will not allow” that the budget be reenacted for the entire year.
He said that during House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s 9-year term presidency, budgets were reenacted the entire year 3 times.
“President Arroyo is used to a reenacted budget. Under her term, it was not only reenacted [for a few months], it was reenacted the whole year. That’s not going to happen. We will insist for a new budget because that is not a sound fiscal policy to have a reenacted budget for one whole year,” he said.
“The reenacted budget provision in the Constitution is a fall-back position so there will be no disruption in govenrment services. But it is the responsibility of every government to have a new budget every year,” he added.
Diokno refused to speculate if the delay is caused by political tensions in Congress.
In August, Diokno said that they were “ready” to implement the 2018 budget for next year, and would request for a supplemental budget if needed. – Rappler.com