LEYTE Representative-elect Martin Romualdez on Sunday called for a “cohesive working relationship” between Congress and the country’s economic managers to ensure that the 2020 national budget will be approved before the year ends.
As an initial step, Romualdez said he sought a meeting recently with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to find ways to tighten the communication line and coordination between the House of Representatives and the economic managers.
“An overwhelming number of congressmen elected in the 18th Congress are supportive of President Duterte and his legislative agenda. Number one on the list of priority bills, of course, is the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for year 2020,” said Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
“In consultation with my colleagues in the 18th Congress, all of them agreed to work double time to ensure that the House of Representatives will approve the General Appropriations Bill before November,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD).
This timetable, he said, will give the senators more time to scrutinize and deliberate on the proposed national budget, thus providing them with enough leeway to pass the GAB before the end of year 2019.
“Our mission in the House: pass the GAB in October and give the Senate until early December to act on it. Then we can both approve the General Appropriations Act before the Christmas break,” said Romualdez, one of the frontrunners in the speakership race.
But to be able to meet the proposed schedule, Romualdez, a former House Independent Bloc leader of the previous 16th Congress or during the Aquino administration, said the congressmen need a more open line with the economic managers so that they will have a clear picture of the President’s Budget for year 2020.
“We need to be in sync, Congress and the economic managers. This will avoid any miscommunication that may cause delay in the deliberations of the proposed national budget,” said the Leyte lawmaker.
“That is why I am exerting all efforts to tighten the communication line and coordination between the congressmen and our economic managers. We really need a cohesive working relationship to meet our self-imposed deadlines,” he added.
At present, the Cabinet is expected to be finalizing details of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2020 that will have to be submitted when the 18th Congress opens session on July 22.
After receipt of the President’s Budget, Romualdez said congressmen may have to spend 30 days or until late August to deliberate on the NEP through committee actions. These include briefing and hearings of the Mother Committee, pre-plenary, and approval of the Committee report.
The Committee Report, according to Romualdez, needs to be ready for plenary deliberation by September so that the House can approve it on second and third reading before Congress breaks in October.
“The Senate, I understand, begins its committee deliberation on the NEP even as early as August so they have plenty of time for plenary deliberation between November and early December,” the Leyte solon pointed out.
“That schedule will give us plenty of time for bicameral discussion on the budget. If both Houses can ratify the bicameral report before the Christmas break, the President can sign the budget before the year ends,” he added.
Romualdez, an incoming four-term congressman, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from the Ivy League school, in Cornell University, and a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University. He also earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines (UP).
One of the laws passed by Romualdez was Republic Act (RA) No. 10754, which exempts more than 1.5 million persons with disabilities (PWDs) from the payment of 12-percent value added tax (VAT) on certain goods and services. It was enacted during the time of former President Aquino.