House reminded of crucial budget task

Published July 3, 2019, 8:18 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Ellson Quismorio

Amid the uncertainty in the Speakership race, a ranking member of the House of Representatives reminded his colleagues about their most important task once the 18th Congress begins in earnest on July 22.

AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

“The budget is the single most important legislation that Congress should attend to and pass on time,” AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said.

Garbin, spokesperson of the Party-List Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCFI), was of course referring to the national budget, the same legislation that was belatedly passed for fiscal year 2019.

The feeling in the chamber is that the 2020 national budget or General Appropriations Act (GAA) must be expeditiously acted upon by the incoming congressmen so as to avoid the headaches caused by the 2019 GAA.

“It is imperative that the delivery of basic services shall not be impeded and [this] can only be attained by the passage of the budget on time,” reckoned Garbin.

“It is vital also to the attainment on the success of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program,” noted the Bicolano.

Big-ticket projects are now in the pipeline under the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program, which has been billed to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” in the Philippines.

Over P8 trillion worth of funds will be poured into the program from 2017 to 2022.

It can be recalled that the P3.757-trillion 2019 GAA was the first “cash-based” budget in history, and was initially opposed by lawmakers who were more used to the “obligation-based” scheme.

Crucial to the early passage of the national budget is a certain predictability on who will be the Speaker, since it is not unusual for House members to constitute themselves in their respective committees ahead of time. This will allow them to hit the ground running, so to speak.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to submit the national expenditure program (NEP)–the basis of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB)–on the day of his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

The GAB, once enacted, will turn into the GAA.

The PCFI, the second-largest bloc in the 18th Congress with 61 members, has yet to endorse a candidate for the Speakership, which seem to attract more and more contestants each day.