House leader assures passage of national budget

November 18, 2018

THE House leadership is expected to pass the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget on third and final reading on November 28, a senior leader of the House Committee on Appropriations said yesterday.

Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the main plenary sponsor of the national budget and a senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, said the small committee tasked to resolve the amendments of House Bill (HB) No. 8169 or the national budget is still putting some finishing touches on the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“We’re at the final stages of reconciling differences and amendments to the budget, and after that we need to get the budget printed. Our target for third reading [approval] is on November 28,” said Zamora in an interview after claiming earlier that the national budget could be passed on third and final reading this week.

“Unfortunately, we’re still quite in the thick of the amendments. Due to the volume of the amendments requested and agreed upon during the debates over HB No. 8169 alone, combined with the different agencies’ concerns, we’re still going through items,” Zamora stressed.

“The small committee has been working with the secretariat day in and out but it’s really a consuming process. Rest assured that we will pass the national budget in time for next year,” Zamora added.

Last Friday, former President-turned Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured anew that there would be no reenacted budget next year.

Zamora confirmed the earlier statement issued by House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr. that they are finalizing the national budget now.

“We would like to convey our assurance to the Senate that the 2019 national budget bill will be transmitted as soon as we are done with our rigorous double-checking and verification of the thousands of line items in a spending measure that will cost taxpayers almost P3.8-trillion,” Andaya told reporters in a viber group.

“We believe that we all have sufficient time in our legislative calendar to pass the budget and send it to President [Rodrigo] Duterte before the end of the year. We are reiterating our strong position against a reenacted budget because such will be hard to implement, will constrict spending, and will give wide latitude and discretion to the Executive on what projects to implement,” said Andaya.

The delayed approval of the national budget stemmed from the supposed P52-billion insertions allegedly by the previous House leadership, prompting Macapagal-Arroyo to realign these to important projects for equitable and fair distribution of funds.

The allocations or alleged insertions questioned were already realigned to the following items after the House of Representatives convened into a committee of the whole: P5 billion as additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the rehabilitation of areas badly hit by typhoon Ompong, especially Cagayan Valley; P3 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH) which Andaya said was reduced to “practically nil” at P50 million; P3 billion for the DOH’s Health Human Resources Development “to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, and doctors and dentists as well”; P1.2 billion for the Capital Outlay of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); P3 billion for Technical-Vocational Laboratories under the Department of Education; P11 billion for roads to decongest traffic in urban areas; P10 billion for roads for identified tourism areas; another P10 billion for roads to trade areas, economic zones, livelihood centers and markets; and P5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) farm-to-market roads (FMRs).