Plenary debates on ‘pork-free’ 2020 budget set Tuesday

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    THE House committee on appropriations has wrapped up “in record time” its deliberations on the P4.1- trillion proposed national budget for 2020 after only two weeks of marathon hearings, paving the way for early plenary deliberations that will begin on Tuesday.

    Committee chairman Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said the committee completed the hearings on the 2020 budget proposals of all government departments, agencies and offices last Friday “in record time.”

    The annual budget hearings usually end every fourth week of September.

    Ungab said the House is sticking to its original target date of passing the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) budget before the October 4 recess.

    Ungab said the panel is set to approve today its committee report on House Bill 4228 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) which seeks to appropriate funds for the operation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.

    The lawmaker credited Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s “innovative idea” to adjust the plenary schedule to accommodate four budget briefings daily.

    “Under the effective guidance and leadership of Speaker Cayetano, everyone moved in accordance to his given task, and supported and coordinated with the leadership of the committee on appropriations which resulted in the early completion of the budget committee hearings last Friday, September 6. For that, I thank the Vice Chairmen and members of the Committee on Appropriations for their hard work and sense of responsibility,” Ungab said in a statement.

    Ungab said it was also Cayetano’s idea to ask the panel’s vice chairmen and their teams to conduct the separate hearings to expedite the process to meet the target of passing the

    budget on or before the congressional break.
    There were fears that the passage of the 2020 GAB might be delayed after deputy speaker Luis Raymond “LRay” Villafuerte late last month moved to have the referral of the bill to the appropriations committee withdrawn.

    Villafuerte had the bill referred to the committee on rules on the ground that its filing on first reading was “premature” since some departments and other agencies of the government have yet to finish presenting their respective budget proposals in the committee level.

    This prompted Ungab to accuse Villafuerte of withdrawing House Bill No. 4228 to change the bill and open it to “insertions” or additional congressional allocations for chosen districts.

    However, in a meeting presided over by the Speaker last Tuesday, the House leadership agreed to refer the measure to the appropriations committee without any amendments.

    Ungab said Cayetano wanted to ensure the timely passage of a “pork-free” and “insertion-free budget.

    Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS) party-list Rep. Romeo Momo later told reporters that Malacañang had allocated at least P800 million in infrastructure projects per congressional district, except for one special district which will get a whopping P5 billion.

    Ungab also thanked his colleagues for cooperating with the House leadership and thoroughly scrutinizing the budget proposals of the different government departments and agencies to determine the necessity of their programs and projects.

    He said the cooperation and attendance of the various heads of government agencies and departments also contributed to the early completion of the budget hearings because the public officials provided the answers to the issues raised by the House Members.

    Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II earlier said the House was previously eyeing the start of plenary budget debates on September 19.

    “The truth is, through the initiative of Speaker Cayetano, we were able to advance the schedule of the plenary debates,” Gonzales said.