By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives will observe the federal system of budgeting in next year’s national budget to guarantee equitable allocation of funds among local government units, congressional districts, and national government agencies.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano gave the assurance two days after he caused the removal of Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, reportedly for taking part in the alleged plot to oust him from the top House post.
Cayetano said he expects neophyte Rep. Eric Go Yap of ACT-CIS Partylist, who replaced Ungab, to effectively steer the national budget process by observing the federal system in the budget process.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Cayetano said that with the cooperation of the executive branch and the Senate, the House would implement “federalism in the budget to make sure that there is no province, city or municipality that’s left behind (in the allocation of funds).”
“Federalism is more sustainable because it is more equitable. It is more inclusive. If you are not equitable, you are not inclusive. There should be no excuse that remote rural areas would have no electricity or water supply,” the Speaker, who is a federalism advocate, said.
He said his chamber would ensure that enough funds would be allocated to President Duterte’s massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
According to Cayetano the Chief Executive wants all “Build, Build, Build projects” started soon and delivered immediately, even those that would take years to complete.
He added that the Chief Executive wishes that at least three subway stations would be built by the end of his six-year term in June, 2022.
The Speaker pointed out that the budget reforms the House is planning to undertake would require “a change of approach, including the timeline” in the budget enactment process.
“It’s too tedious. The President proposes the budget in July, we are done with the deliberations in the House in October, the Senate finishes its own consideration of the proposal in November, and we finally approve it and the President signs it in December. By March, biddings are still not finished. So we will try to redo all of that (to speed up the process),” he stressed.
The administration’s economic managers are mulling a budget of P4.6 trillion for next year, at least P500 billion more than this year’s P4.1 trillion.
The current 18th Congress approved the 2020 appropriations bill before yearend last year.
The President signed it at the start of the new year.
The enactment of the 2019 budget by the previous Congress was delayed by at least three months due to wrangling between the House and the Senate over alleged budget insertions.
Cayetano said last year’s deliberations on the P4.1-trillion 2020 spending program were transparent.
“During the bicameral conference, in the spirit of transparency, it was the first time that the Senate gave us their proposed changes and we gave them our proposed amendments,” he said.
He said the House proposals “were not pork,” citing as examples the P1-billion camp development fund his chamber allocated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Is that pork? I do not even know which camp will benefit from the appropriation,” he added.
The Speaker pointed out that it would be the leadership of the defense-military establishment and the Department of the Interior and Local Government and PNP that would decide where the money would be used.