Bicam panel sets final meet on 2020 national budget

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    CONGRESS is set to approve this week the reconciled version of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 as the bicameral conference review of the money measure enters its final phase tomorrow, Tuesday.

    Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the bicameral panel reconciling the Senate and the House of Representatives versions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will meet for the last time for eleventh-hour discussions on the measure.

    The bicameral meeting is scheduled on Tuesday morning at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.

    Angara said majority of the Senate representatives to the bicameral group requested for additional time to go through the GAB.

    “Senators asked for a one-day period to review the reconciled bicam version of the budget. So to give that, we will meet Tuesday for approval (of the budget bill),” Angara said.

    Angara said bicameral discussions have been “moving” as “we are approximately 90 to 95 percent reconciled with the House.”

    He said a number of institutional amendments made by the senators have been adopted by the bicam panel, including those from Sen. Panfilo Lacson who has sought to place a number of limits on administrative costs and approving more local projects.

    “(The proposals) have also been adopted in some form in the budget’s general and special provisions,” he added.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they are also looking at Tuesday or Wednesday, at the latest, for the ratification of the budget bill.

    At the House of Representatives, the chairman of the House committee on appropriations said the conference committee report on the proposed 2020 national budget may be approved on Tuesday morning and ratified on the same day to allow President Duterte to sign it into law before December 21.

    “We will do our best to finish the bicam by Tuesday,” said Ungab. “Hopefully, we can finish the bicam and plenary ratification [of the report] on Tuesday,” Ungab said.

    Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, a vice chair of the House committee on appropriations, said efforts by both panels to reconcile their differing versions of the budget has been going smoothly.

    “There are no problems on the final version. It was moved to Tuesday because it was the original plan,” Salceda said. – With Wendell Vigilia