By Ben Rosario
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental – Breaking the 2019 budget impasse will depend on when Senate is ready to “dance the tango” with the three-man panel sent by the House of Representatives.
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said there was no time pressure for the House and the Senate panels to reach an agreement on the discord over the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act that brought about the delay in its approval.
“It takes two to tango. How can we have a time limit,” said Arroyo. “But as soon as possible, it’s what we like, but we cannot put a deadline on the Senate,” she answered when asked by reporters when she expected the measure to be sent to Malacanang for President Duterte’s signature.
Nevertheless, Arroyo remained optimistic that the Senate and House panels, which were scheduled to meet Monday, will be able to iron out differences over certain provisions in the P3.757-trillion budget bill.
Prior to the meeting, House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said Arroyo has instructed them to observe “four guideposts for the negotiations.”
“They have to ensure that the 2019 GAA will not only be constitutional and legal, but must pass the test of transparency and accountability,” said Castro. The House leadership has appointed three “veteran congressmen who are lawyers” in a last-ditch attempt to break the budget deadlock.
They were Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and former budget secretary as the House panel leader; San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, leader of the Liberal Party-backed Magnificent Seven opposition group.
“The appointment of vetran lawyer-congressmen is in line with the Speaker’s instruction to observe four guideposts for the negotiations,” said Castro.