House recalls version of 2019 budget to end standoff with Senate

MANILA, Philippines – In a move seen as a way to end the budget impasse, the House leadership on Monday, March 18, recalled the enrolled version of the 2019 it earlier forwarded to the Senate.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has appointed San Juan City Representative Ronnie Zamora to negotiate with senators, hoping to convince them to finally agree to submit the proposed 2019 budget to the President.

Zamora’s main task is to persuade the senators to sign the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019. The senators had remained intransigent, claiming the House itemized lump sum funds under the health facilities budget.

The senators said it was unconstitutional for the House to distribute the lump sum funds after the budget had already been ratified by both chambers.

Zamora told reporters that the House recalled the budget bill “as a sign of good faith in order to continue discussing” the issues the Senate raised.

He said the senators were saying that the House sent to the Senate documents that contained the enrolled bill. “There is no problem for us taking it (document) back...because until the Senate president in fact signs that, it’s still not an enrolled bill.”

However, Zamora’s brinkmanship will be a put to a test even in his own backyard.

Representative Rolando Andaya, chair of the House appropriations committee, said it was only the plenary which can recall the budget forwarded to the Senate. He also added that he was unaware of the Zamora’s assigned task.

Andaya said, “My task is to steer the approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in the House of Representatives.”

“The 2019 GAB was approved in plenary at the House of the Representatives. The ratification of the bicameral conference report on the national budget was also made in plenary. Recall of the 2019 GAB must also be done in plenary session, with majority members of the House in approval,” said Andaya.

He added: “No congressman has the authority, without plenary approval, to order the recall of the enrolled form of any bill already transmitted to the Senate.”

Meanwhile as the government continued to operate with an reenacted 2018 because of the deadlock in the legislature, the country’s economic outlook has been scaled down for this year.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) said on March 13 that it is now aiming for the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth to hit between 6% and 7%. The original target was set at 7% to 8%.

The GDP growth target for 2020 was likewise adjusted downward to 6.5% to 7.5%.

The DBCC said that the longer the budget impasse persists, the larger the adverse effect on the Philippine economy and its people. (READ: What to expect as gov't operates on a reenacted budget) –