VOTING 196 against eight, the House of Representatives yesterday approved on third and final reading the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget, which the leadership described as a constitutionally compliant line budgeting system to ensure a pork-free National Expenditure Program (NEP).
“Everything is itemized,” House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., who chairs the House committee on rules, told reporters in a press conference in dismissing the allegations of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson that the delay in the budget’s passage was allegedly due to pork insertions.
“Itemized ang gusto namin para klaro kung ano iyong ini-expect ng tao. Although we admit may mga portions na hindi mo talaga ma-itemized kagaya ng calamity fund. Hindi mo naman puwedeng hulaan kung ilan ang bagyong papasok? Ilang bilyon iyong magiging damage? But as much as possible, itemized ang gusto namin, that will also take some time,” said Andaya.
Andaya said the delays in the approval of the national budget was triggered by the requests for funding of the Executive Department, including President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte himself about the important projects to be funded, including housing for military personnel.
“Hanggang ngayon hindi pa nga clear sa mga members ng Cabinet so we were swamped by a very unusual number of requests coming from the Executive, even coming from the President himself. May mga request na gustong ilagay doon sa version ng House. So it was our duty to look at it one by one. Hindi naman puwedeng madaliin namin ‘yan, i-sacrifice ‘yung quality ng trabaho namin. So it would take some time. And I’m sure sila rin ho pagdating sa Senate, they will also need some time na tingnan ‘yung sistema na ito,” said Andaya.
“He’s (President Duterte) been going around various military camps, ‘yung mga promises niya on housing and public works na naipangako niya,” said Andaya.
Last Friday, former President-turned Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured anew that there would be no reenacted budget next year.
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).