DEPUTY Speaker Mikee Romero yesterday asked the Department of Budget and Management to ensure the proposed national budget is submitted to Congress every July to give lawmakers ample time to scrutinize the National Expenditure Program and pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on time.
“This way Congress will have at least one month (more) in addition to the budget study. The timetable is very important matter that our economic managers should consider,” Romero, president of the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc., told the PCFI’s weekly news forum.
Romero said both Houses of Congress should be given at least six months to finish the budget deliberations from the committee to the approval in the bicameral level.
The proposed P4.1 trillion national budget was submitted to the House of Representatives only last August 18, instead of the usual submission which coincides with the annual State of the Nation Address every fourth Monday of July or in the next few days after the SONA.
The House committee on appropriations finished its budget hearings last week and the plenary has been deliberating on the GAB since last Tuesday.
Romero said Congress cannot afford to delay the passage of the budget, adding the government lost P77 billion a month for the first six months of 2019 because of the delay in the passage of this year’s P3.7 trillion national budget which President Duterte was only able to sign last April after it was delayed in Congress.
The 2019 budget was not passed on time by the previous Congress after the leadership of former Speaker Gloria Arroyo found billions in alleged insertions made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
This prompted the House to realign the questionable items which in turn prompted Sen. Panfilo Lacson to accuse the House of making the insertions.
Romero said the early submission of the proposed national budget has become “imperative” due to huge losses to the economy which is around P463.6 billion in the first six months of 2019 alone.
The lawmaker, the wealthiest member of the 18th Congress, cited the economic slowdown caused by the nearly six-month delay in the approval of the 2019 budget bill.
“Opportunity loss as a result of the long delay in the budget approval was (pegged at) $17.834 billion in (the whole of) 2019. We should do everything legal to avoid a repeat of this regrettable situation in the future,” Romero said, adding the projected gross domestic product growth of 6.4 percent registered a four-year low of 5.5 percent for the first quarter.
The lawmaker, however, remains optimistic that the 2020 budget measure will be approved on time as the House is on pace to meet its self-imposed deadline of passing the GAB before it goes on a break on October 4.
Romero said this will help government economists “pursue a successful plan to catch up with the huge 2019 losses.”
“Economically the repercussions of the delayed budget passage is too heavy for the country that a repeat should be avoided,” he said.