By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House of Representatives is eyeing to approve the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget on third and final reading “by third week of November,” a House leader said on Sunday.
Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the main plenary sponsor of the national budget and a member of the “small committee” tasked to scrutinize the amendments to House Bill 8169 or the national budget, said they are flexing their muscles to ensure that the spending measure will be signed into law before year ends.
“Unfortunately, we’re still quite in the thick of the amendments. Due to the volume of the amendments requested and agreed upon during the debates over HB No. 8169 alone, combined with the different agencies’ concerns, we’re still going through items. We’re targeting finishing this week, and then the budget will be readied for printing,” she said in an interview, as Congress resumes session on Monday.
“By the third week of November, we can have the third and final reading approval [of the national budget],” said Zamora, senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations.
The plenary debates on the budget measure were delayed after the alleged P52-billion insertions by former House leadership were uncovered. The supposed insertions were intended for specific legislative districts of some congressmen.
“The small committee has been working with the secretariat day in and out but it’s really a consuming process. Rest assured that we will pass the national budget in time for next year,” Zamora said.
The House of Representatives, via viva voce voting, approved House Bill 8169 or the spending bill on second reading on October 10.
The supposed insertions were realigned to the following items: P5 billion as additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the rehabilitation of areas badly hit by typhoon Ompong, especially Cagayan Valley; P3 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH); P3 billion for the DOH’s Health Human Resources Development “to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, and doctors and dentists as well”; P1.2 billion for the capital outlay of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); P3 billion for Technical-Vocational Laboratories under the Department of Education; P11 billion for roads to decongest traffic in urban areas; P10 billion for roads for identified tourism areas; another P10 billion for roads to trade areas, economic zones, livelihood centers and markets; and P5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) farm-to-market roads (FMRs).
It was House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr. who proposed the creation of a small committee to receive and resolve amendments to HB 8169.
House members were asked to submit their individual amendments to the spending bill on October 9, 2018.
Aside from Zamora and Andaya, sitting at the small committee are Representatives. Federico Sandoval II, Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon, Anthony Bravo and Edcel Lagman and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.