Senate okays extension of 2019 budget validity

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    THE Senate yesterday approved on final reading the measure extending the validity of the 2019 national budget until December 31, 2020.

    Finance committee chair Juan Edgardo Angara said the passage of House Bill No. 5437, which amends section 65 of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) will help government agencies involved in relief efforts such as the recent series of earthquakes in Mindanao.

    Nineteen of the senators present voted to approve the measure.

    “Through this measure we would be extending a big helping hand to the Executive Branch which has had to operate during the first few months of this year on a re-enacted budget and the rest under pressure to spend up to P3.687 trillion of total available appropriations in a span of seven to eight months approximately amidst the election ban on government projects this year,” Angara said.

    “We do this because under RA 11260 or the 2019 GAA and Executive Order No. 91 on the implementation of a cash-budgeting system, all appropriations that were not released, obligated or paid by Dec. 31, 2019 shall lapse and revert to the national treasury,” he added.

    Angara said it was not the first time the Senate is sponsoring a measure seeking to extend the validity of the GAA.

    “My predecessors at the finance committee, Senators (Loren) Legarda and (Francis) Escudero, also sponsored in 2013 and 2018 respectively similar measures calling for extensions in the budget validity,” he said.

    “The Senate is not oblivious to the travails of the Executive Branch and we must help them.

    We must see to it that the national budget we approved for 2019 would benefit our people in terms of better services and more efficient public spending,” Angara said.

    The 2019 GAA was signed by President Duterte only last April after delays in its passage was experienced.

    For one, the House of Representatives passed the General Appropriations Bill to the Senate only on November 24, 2018 when it should have been done on the first week of October.

    The HOR was delayed in sending the GAB to the Senate due to the change in its leadership and different committees.

    The Senate also took time deliberating on the proposed budget after they found some P75 billion worth of insertions made by their House counterparts.

    Insertions were made likewise made by the House even after the bicameral conference committee has approved the budget bill.

    Angara said the non-extension of the budget’s validity will impact on the Department of Education projects as 2,900 classrooms will not be repaired and rehabilitated as scheduled, 590 schools will remain without electricity, up to 57 Gabaldon school buildings will not be restored, up to 11,677 activity sheets and modules for kindergarten and Grade 1 students will not be printed and delivered.

    For the Department of Health, funding for infrastructure projects and medical equipment of 2,800 health facilities enhancement program (HFEP) will be adversely affected; while the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s supplementary feedings program will not push through.

    Also, at least P8 billion of the remaining budget of the Commission on Higher Education and State Universities and Colleges will not be utilized to pay for the second semester billing under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

    The Department of Labor and Employment, on the other hand, will not be able to place more students under the government’s internship program or help workers beset with misfortune under its Tulong Panghanapbuhay program.

    “Many other agencies would be able to implement their projects and provide their services to the people if the budget’s validity is extended,” Angara said.