THE Senate yesterday passed on final reading its version of the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.
Voting 22-0, with only Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao and Leila de Lima not being able to vote, the senators passed on 2nd and 3rd reading the proposed national budget after more than two weeks of deliberations which started last November 4.
The Senate named Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Go, Richard Gordon, Imee Marcos, Joel Villanueva, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan and Pia Hontiveros as its representatives to the bicameral discussions.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the bicameral panel will convene next week.
Angara said the Senate introduced a number of institutional amendments to the proposed budgets for education, health and nutrition, social welfare, housing and labor; agriculture and food security, national security, justice, peace and order; infrastructure development, trade and tourism, science and technology innovations, and culture and sports.
Angara said the other agencies which were proposed to have additional budgets were Congress, Office of the Vice President, Department of Finance, Department of Foreign Affairs, Cooperative Development Authority, Credit Information Corporation, and the Development Academy of the Philippines, among others.
The Senate also proposed additional funding for the implementation of new laws like the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, the Magna Carta for the Poor, the Seal of Good Local Governance law, the law calling for mandatory Philhealth coverage for persons with disabilities, and the law creating the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.
In an interview before the passage of the proposed budget, Lacson said the Senate will keep a watchful eye on possible “pork” insertions to be introduced by their counterparts from the House of Representatives during the bicameral process.
Lacson reiterated his proposal to make the bicameral discussions open to the public in the spirit of transparency so as to avoid individual insertions to the proposed budget.
“I want it transparent. I want it public. Not necessarily covered by media but there should be some NGOs,” he said.
Lacson has kept a hawk-eye on possible pork insertions in the annual budget bill, carefully studying the version of the money measure approved by congressmen.
The 2019 national budget suffered delays in its approval after senators stood firm against a P75 billion institutional amendment made by their House colleagues.
When President Duterte signed the 2019 General Appropriations Act last April, he vetoed the House’s pork insertions.