Debate on all those bills but pass budget first

E CARTOON Aug 18, 2019After a month-long break, Congress returned to its sessions last Monday, with  the  House of Representatives  focusing on a number of economic measures.  The House approved the 2020 National Budget bill  early  last August 29, determined to avoid the budget fiasco last year when the  budget for 2020 was approved only  in April, 2020, forcing  the postponement of so many government projects.

In a bid to avoid a  repetition,   Malacanang submitted  its P3.662-trilllion proposal for 2020  to the House early  this year –  last August 29 – and  the House approved it on both second and third readings the same day, setting aside the House rule for  a  three-day waiting period between the two votes.

In the Senate,    Sen. Panfilo  Lacson,  a perennial critic of  House efforts to include lump sums in the budget bill, said there are still an estimated P2 billion  in lump sums without  specific  projects in the proposed 2020 budget.  But  the Senate, he said,  may just adopt the House-approved budget,  just to ensure that  there won’t be a  disastrous budget delay like last year.

In  these  last few weeks of the year, focus will be on   certain other bills. There is a bill  postponing the May, 2020,  barangay  and  Sanggunian Kabataan elections to December, 2022.  There are proposals to create  a  Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, a Department of Water, and a Department of Disaster Resilience.

There  are a number of  tax bills, notably those revising taxes on  foreign firms in the Corporate Income  Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act (CITIRA), and  increasing  the excise taxes on alcohol products, heated tobacco, and vapor products.  There is even a tax – proposed by the Department of Health — not  to raise money for the government but to reduce  consumption of salty  products  as a health measure.

Controversy is bound to arise on the tax bills, especially that on salty food  as it impinges on the subsistence fare of most poor folk in this country —  the tuyo and the daing.  Our legislators can debate  all they want on these bills – as long as we are assured  we  already have a national budget  to take care of our programs for the coming year.