By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The bicameral conference panel is flexing its muscles to ensure that the next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national budget will be signed by President Duterte before December 21.
This was assured by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who heads the House contingent in the budget conference, as the bicameral meeting on the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) was moved to Tuesday, December 10.
“We will do our best to finish the bicam by Tuesday and hopefully, the ratification [of the national budget] will also be on Tuesday,” Ungab said in an interview.
The bicameral meeting was supposed to be held on Monday, December 9.
When asked about the conflicting figures or provisions that have to be ironed out by the bicameral committee on Tuesday, Ungab said their Senate and House staff are still “gathering data and consolidating reports.”
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a member of the bicameral panel, said there was nothing unusual with the postponement of the Monday’s bicameral meeting.
“Tuesday is the original plan,” he told reporters in a Viber chat group.
Salceda earlier said senators and members of the House of Representatives have agreed that President Duterte’s National Expenditure Program served as a “basis” for the 2020 GAB, and that the spending measure will be ratified on Monday, December 9.
He explained that it has been a tradition that the bicameral conference panel starts with the NEP to immediately reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the spending measure.
“All bicam starts with the NEP so that all disagreeing provisions will be immediately reconciled,” Salceda said.
When asked if the Senate and House realigments were scrapped after the bicameral panel adopted the NEP as its basis for amendments, the House simply quipped, “The bicam is the third House.”
Reports earlier said the senators made P206.2 billion worth of realignments in their version of GAB for next year.
Despite the inclement weather, Ungab and Angara met on Tuesday to reconcile the conflicting figures of next year’s national budget.
“Both panels agree on the need to pass and approve the national budget before the Christmas break,” Ungab said.
The discrepancies were seen in the budgets of the Departments of Health, Transportation, and Public Works and Highways.
In the House version, the DOH was given P88.92 billion, while, under the Senate’s GAB, it was allocated P100.49 billion.
The House allocated P 146.04 billion for the DOTr, but the Senate allocated a higher budget for the department amounting to P120.32 billion.
The DPWH’s budget under House version was P529.75, while the Senate-version earmarked P536.58 billion.