Validity extension of 2020 budget, Bayanihan 2 certified urgent

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has certified as urgent the extension of the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

    Roque said the certification aims to expedite the approval of the said measures before Congress adjourns for its holiday break on December 18.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed that Malacañang has certified the passage of the two measures as urgent.

    The House of Representatives on Monday, voting 221-6-0, approved on third and final reading the bill extending the validity of this year’s P4.1 trillion budget until December 31, 2021.

    Under the measure, infrastructure projects funded under the 2020 GAA that have been subjected to the procurement process shall be issued the corresponding special allotment release orders (SAROs) by the Department of Budget and Management subject to budgeting, accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations.

    A report of the releases and obligations shall be submitted to the Speaker, Senate President, House committee on appropriations and the Senate committee on finance.

    The effectivity of the Bayanihan 2 Act, on the other hand, will only be until December 19 this year, unless extended by Congress.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon yesterday said that while he supports the extension of the validity of the 2020 GAA and the Bayanihan 2, he doubts if the cash-strapped government coffer can still absorb the additional spending on top of the unprogrammed P4.5 trillion expenditures for next year.

    “I support extending the validity of the spending authorization under GAA 2020 and Bayanihan 2. The problem is where to source the funds to back up these authorizations,” Drilon said in a statement.

    “To provide authorization is one thing but to fund it is another. Our current fiscal space makes us doubt whether the level of unspent amount under Bayanihan 2 and 2020 GAA is something the government can absorb on top of the programmed expenditures for next year,” Drilon also said.

    To address the government’s cash requirement, Drilon said the government must do another “cash sweep” in order to raise funds to implement much-needed relief programs in the Bayanihan 2 and continue critical programs, projects and activities under 2020 GAA.

    He said the President must realign idle funds, including the P33 billion “parked” funds in the Philippine International Trading Center, where the spending authority has already lapsed, including the interest earned, to fund these authorizations.

    “We have no option but to do a ‘cash sweep’ and that should cover idle funds and interest income being held illegally by PITC,” Drilon said. – With Raymond Africa and Wendell Vigilia