Senate, House 'resolve impasse' over 2018 budget

MANILA, Philippines – The two chambers of Congress on Tuesday, December 5, resolved an "impasse" over the proposed 2018 budget, more than 5 days after they convened to reconcile differences in the Senate and House versions of the budget.

House appropriations committee chairman Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles made the announcement early Tuesday evening. The bicameral conference had begun on November 30 but was suspended just minutes into the proceedings.

Nograles had been meeting with Senate finance committee chairperson Senator Loren Legarda as part of a "small group" tasked to settle differences in the two versions. The House passed the budget back in September while the Senate passed its version late November.

Among the most contentious differences between the two versions is the P50 billion slashed from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) due to supposed right-of-way issues. It was Senator Panfilo Lacson who pushed for this budget cut in the Senate.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had earlier said the P50 billion should be resolved or the national government would be forced to work with a reenacted budget for 2018.

Lacson, however, stood by his proposed budget cut despite objections from the House and from his colleague, Senator Cynthia Villar, the mother of DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.

In an interview with ANC on Wednesday, December 6, Nograles said that they agreed to slash P4 billion from the DPWH budget instead of P50 billion. 

The Senate also cut P900 million which would have been spent on the war on drugs of the Philippine National Police (PNP), since cops had been removed from the campaign during the budget deliberations. President Rodrigo Duterte has since ordered police to reenter the war on drugs. –