After 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.