By Ben R. Rosario
President Rodrigo Duterte and former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo put an end to the impasse in the 2019 budget process in the House of Representatives, agreeing on Tuesday’s meeting to address disagreements over Malacanang’s adoption of the cash-based budget system.
This was revealed Wednesday by Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya who insisted that there was actually no serious discord over the new budget system and the traditional obligation-based budgeting, claiming that what the Department of Budget and Management had submitted for Congress consideration a “hybrid” type of budgeting system.
“After last night, everybody can rest easy knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Andaya.
Andaya, who joined Arroyo in the Malacanang meeting, said the House Committee on Appropriations is expected to continue with the budget hearings to make up for lost time.
This developed as the House recognized minority bloc headed by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez welcomed the outcome of the Duterte-Arroyo meeting where the two leaders ironed out issues that triggered the suspension of budget hearings in the LowereHouse.
Suarez, together with Deputy Minority Leader and Coop-Nattco Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo, said budget cuts on key government departments cannot be easily justified because the Duterte administration enjoys a healthy cash flow brought about by the TRAIN Law implementation.
The House panel decided to suspend hearings as leaders of both the majority and minority blocs protested the adoption by the DBM of the cash-based budgeting system and the scrapping of the obligations-based scheme.
However, Andaya clarified that the DBM has pointed out that the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act is a hybrid scheme that carries both systems of budgeting.
Andaya said that certain budgetary items will have a 15-month or 18-month expenditure period, which is a recognized obligation-based budget scheme.
“We understand the cash-based budgeting is one step forward to better spending, but we should do it little by little not abrupt,” Andaya said.
The Bicolano solon added: “There are projects that should still be under obligation-based. I made the suggestion to the Secretary, and I think he will consider it.”
The senior administration solon said the House leadership also expects either partial or full restoration of the huge cuts in 2019 budgetary allocations for vital programs of the Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Public Works and highways and Department of Social Welfare and Development.
When asked where will the adjustment of the budget be sourced of, the House leader they already identified some but made assurance that the restored budgets will come from within the proposed national allocation.
According to him Malacanang and the Lower House agreed that there was really no point of real disagreement, adding that there were mere issues of miscommunication.
“We have established new lines of communications. Unfortunate statements which were uttered by various parties referring to re-enacted budget was never authorized by the president,” said Andaya.
Immediately after news of the cancellation of budget hearings were reported. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque lamented the Lower Hosue decision but stressed that the Palace “will not blink” and is ready if the controversy leads to a re-enacted 2019 budget.
Andaya and Suarez stressed that a re-enacted budget will not be contemplated by the Lower House.