Media coverage to turn budget bicam debates into a circus: Alan

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    SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano warned lawmakers yesterday that Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposal to open bicameral committee meetings on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 to media coverage may turn the deliberations into a “circus.”

    Cayetano said that while the House is not opposing the proposal in the pursuit of transparency, he is concerned that some lawmakers may use it as a platform for grandstanding.

    He added this might delay the passage of the budget because lawmakers will surely try to outdo each other in front of TV cameras, extending the deliberations to longer hours.

    “We have to be very realistic on how we can get the job done. When you open it for live coverage, what will happen is many (lawmakers) will play to the media, play to the gallery, instead of really discussing the budget,” he told reporters.

    “When you open it to the media, it’ll be February, March, April and we still don’t have an approved budget. What good is the budget then?” he added.

    The Speaker said the Senate needs to formalize Lacson’s proposal before the House can consider and decide on it.

    The Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to convene the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the disagreeing provisions in their versions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

    Cayetano on Wednesday urged senators to finish their budget deliberations this month so bicameral meetings can be scheduled by the first week of December.

    The Senate has set the plenary sponsorship of the proposed budget on November 11, while plenary debates are set from November 11 to 15 and November 18 to 22.

    On November 22, the budget is expected to be approved on second and third reading, and bicameral panel discussions are expected to be held from November 25 to 30.

    Lacson, who has been known for exposing alleged “pork barrel” allocations in the annual budget, earlier pressed lawmakers to make public their individual amendments to the proposed GAB for the sake of transparency.

    He said senators and congressmen should post their amendments in their respective websites, similar to what he did last year.

    The bicam meetings should be seen by the public because it is where other amendments are inserted or introduced, according to the senator.

    Lacson made the suggestion after he noted P20 billion worth of “problematic items” in the proposed GAB transmitted by the House.

    Among these were two items involving infrastructure projects intended for Kennon Road in Baguio City, of which one amounted to P507 million and the other P70 million. Both road projects did not contain details in the GAB.

    He said another problematic item in the proposed budget was a P4 billion “assistance to LGUs (local government units) budget which the Department of Interior and Local Government does not know how to spend.”

    Lacson has earlier said that the “unclear” P20 billion lump sum allocations were “parked” in different government agencies such as the DPWH and the DILG.

    Deputy speaker for finance Luis Raymond Villafuerte appealed to the Senate to help the House increase state funding for infrastructure and other priority sections in 2020 to serve as a greater fiscal stimulus to the economy, which grew by 6.2 percent between July to September this year.

    Villafuerte noted that a strong economic spurt powered by much higher state spending and low inflation “would keep the Philippines among the world’s fastest-growing economies on the Duterte watch, against the backdrop of weakening global growth brought about by, among others, the US-China trade war, Brexit and climate change.”

    “I call on our senators to work with their peers in the House of Representatives in increasing the state’s budgetary outlays for infrastructure, agriculture, education and health in the coming year,” he said.