By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Panfilo Lacson conceded on Thursday that Congress could be blamed for the slowing down of the Philippines’ economic growth for the first quarter of the year.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from January to March was at 5.6 percent.
It was the slowest growth rate in four years, and even below the six- to seven-percent target growth for 2019.
Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia said this would not have been the figure if Congress had passed the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) before the end of 2018, and prevented the government’s reliance on a reenacted budget.
“Admittedly, Congress could be the main culprit for the lower-than-projected GDP growth rate at 5.6 percent as clearly the one-quarter delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget slowed down spending,” Lacson said in a text message.
“Hopefully, we can catch up in the succeeding months since election expenses normally contribute to better consumption of goods and services,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, put the blame on the House of Representatives as he recalled its delayed transmittal of the budget bill to the Upper Chamber.
“Congress [being blamed for the slow GDP]? Not the Senate! [The] Lower House sent it to us much belatedly then prevented the approval when they realigned unconstitutionally. Do not blame us!” Sotto said.
The approval of the P3.757-trillion 2019 budget was stalled for almost four months due to the wrangling between the Senate and House over the alleged “pork” insertions in the spending plan.
President Duterte signed the GAA last April 15 but vetoed some P95 billion worth of non-priority infrastructure projects in the government outlay.