House wants to pass proposed 2020 budget by October

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is aiming to pass the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 before the 18th Congress takes a break in October. 

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Tuesday, August 6, that the committee on appropriations – tasked to scrutinize the annual national budget – will be holding simultaneous budget hearings so the House would meet its own deadline.

"Mahirap magsalita nang tapos, but the target is efficiency, quality, yet faster.... As soon as we finish the calendar, but definitely bago mag-break, [ipapasa namin ito]," said the Taguig City-Pateros representative in an ambush interview at a hotel in Quezon City.

(It's hard to say something with finality, but the target is efficiency, quality, yet done faster.... As soon as we finish the calendar, but definitely before the break, we will pass this.)

The 18th Congress is set to adjourn session for a month-long break on October 4.

Cayetano and House appropriations panel chairperson Isidro Ungab, who is also Davao City 3rd District congressman, plan to form subcommittees, which will then be tasked to scrutinize the proposed budgets of specific government departments and offices only.

The House committee on appropriations as a whole traditionally studies the budget proposals one department or office at a time.

Barring any major setbacks, the whole process takes about a month or two to finish, from the budget hearings to the General Appropriations Act's passage on 2nd and 3rd readings in the plenary.

Cayetano said they now plan to hold simultaneous budget hearings to avoid the months-long budget deadlock that the 17th Congress encountered in 2018.

Accusations of illegal budget insertions and conflicts between Congress and the Cabinet not only delayed the passage of the 2019 budget, but also led to the government reenacting the 2018 budget in the 1st quarter of this year. (READ: Winners and losers under Duterte's 2019 budget)

Duterte was able to approve the 2019 budget only in April, but he vetoed P95.3 billion worth of allocations under the Department of Public Works and Highways.  

The House will have to approve the 2020 budget first before it is transmitted to the Senate. Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said the Senate cannot promise to fast-track its passage of the spending bill.

"Kung may nakita kaming kung saan-saan napunta 'yung mga budget ng mga agencies at naglutangan doon sa mga distrito, hindi natin maipapangako na maidali. It's actually on them (the House) to pass the budget or not," said Lacson.

(We won't be able to promise to swiftly pass the budget if we see that allocations for the agencies end up in different districts instead. It's actually on them to pass the budget or not.)

Lacson had previously accused the House of passing a pork-riddled 2019 budget. – with a report from Aika Rey/Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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