Determined to avoid the disastrous three-month delay in the approval of the National Budget for this year, the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means announced it will start deliberations on next year’s budget on Thursday, August 22.
On that day the committee, headed by Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, will open committee discussions to give every member enough time to raise any concern with the executive officials who drew up the proposed budget.
In the Senate, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, assured that the senators will work closely with the House to make sure everything humanly possible is done to pass the budget in a responsible and timely manner.
Since the 2020 budget – for P4.1 trillion – will need more funds than last year, the House has also begun early to act on bills providing for these additional funds This early, the House Ways and Means Committee has already approved two important tax bills – one increasing the tax rates on alcohol production and the other reducing the corporate income tax but “streamlines” the tax incentives granted to foreign firms to induce them to locate in the Philippines.
This latter tax bill is the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA), which was originally known as TRAIN 2, for Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act 2, then further renamed TRABAHO, for Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities.
Aside from raising funds needed for the increased 2020 National Budget, CITIRA seeks to withdraw some of the tax incentives originally granted to foreign firms. The Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) fears it will discourage foreign firms from coming to the Philippines but the early start of deliberations in the House should give everyone the opportunity to have his say.
There is one other factor that must be taken into consideration in the enactment of bills, particularly the critical ones like the National Budget. This is the election in May, 2022, when the nation’s political leaders focus on the all-important task of electing the nation’s next president.
Months before the election, politicians will be deep into this political exercise in varying degrees of involvement. Thus Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez III hopes Congress will be able to finalize action on all important economic bills, including the National Budget bill, long before election issues hinder swift congressional action on them.
It is good that our leaders in Congress are moving this early on the National Budget Bill, for we must avoid the three-month delay in the approval of the current 2019 budget that set back so many projects and has kept us from achieving our Gross Domestic Product goal for this year.