THE disagreeing provisions between the House of Representatives and the Senate versions of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget have already been ironed out in the bicameral conference committee level, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said yesterday.
Salceda said there was an agreement among members of the bicameral panel to revert to Malacañang’s original proposal as contained in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) to avoid conflicting provisions and approve the budget bill by Monday, December 9.
“There was an agreement to go back to NEP and to consider amendments or disagreeing provisions towards an agreement by Monday,” Salceda told reporters. “By Monday we will be signing. All significant differences have essentially been reconciled.”
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chair of the House committee on appropriations, on Tuesday held a one-on-one meeting with Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on finance, to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Ungab said he wants the budget ratified next week so there will be enough time for printing before President Duterte signs the measure.
He said his panel secretariat just finished scrutinizing the Senate-approved version that was presented to his House colleagues in a meeting last Monday.
“Both chairmen will still have to go through the details and we still have to agree on the contentious figures,” said Ungab. “Nevertheless, both panels agree on the need to pass and approve the national budget before the Christmas break.”
“The House Appropriations Secretariat just finished studying [Monday] the figures in the Senate’s GAB as approved on final reading. I presented these findings to the House bicameral conference committee panel and will proceed to discuss the details with my Senate counterpart, Sen. Angara,” added Ungab.
Salceda earlier said there were discrepancies in the allocations by the House and the Senate for the departments of health (DOH), transportation (DOTr), and public works and highways (DPWH).
The House of Representatives allocated P88.92 billion budget for DOH, but the Senate gave the department P100.49 billion.
The DOTr was allocated P146.04 billion budget by the House but was only given P120.32 billion under the Senate-approved version.
In the case of the DPWH, congressmen allocated P529.75 billion while senators allocated P536.58 billion.
“In the spirit of transparency,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday made public the amendments that he introduced to the budget bill.
Lacson said he proposed that additional funding be allocated for the three landmark projects of the Duterte administration – the national ID program, the universal health program, and the free college education program.
He also moved to decrease the proposed budgets for the DPWH and the DOTr after he found out that the two agencies have been under-spending the past years.
Lacson said the proposed deducted budget from the two agencies will be realigned to “more worthwhile projects.”
In his website, Lacson said he introduced amendments in the budgets of the departments of agriculture, education, environment and natural resources, health, information communication and technology, interior, national defense, science and technology, transportation, the National Economic Development Authority, state universities and colleges, and other executive offices.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has earlier said Congress is eyeing the ratification of the proposed national budget on Monday when the Senate resumes its sessions since “there will be very few points of disagreements”.
“Most probably (the proposed 2020 budget will be ratified on Monday). It is possible, depende kung napirmahan ng lahat ng mga members ng bicam (it depends if the draft has been signed by all members of the bicam). There are 23 members of the bicam in theHouse and15 members of the Senate bicam,” Sotto said. – With Raymond Africa