The House of Representatives, sitting as a committee of the whole, adopted several amendments to the proposed 2019 national budget.
Rep. Rolando Andaya, former Budget secretary and former chairman of the House committee on appropriations, proposed the amendments containing the realigned budget coming from the alleged questionable P55-billion ‘insertions.’
He made the proposals even as Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday vowed to go after the P55-billion budget that he claimed to be the “pork barrel” stuck in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for next year.
Responding to the question if he would chase the so-called pork barrel, Lacson answered, “that’s right.”
“Because that can be changed. If they agreed yesterday if the P55 billion was realigned... we will look for it now. But that is still pork. From pork to pork.”
Malacañang on Tuesday withdrew itself from the budget ruckus in the House, saying it will let Congress “exercise its power over the purse” to approve the proposed 2019 budget amid the alleged insertion into next year’s National Expenditure Program.
“Let me put it this way: Malacañang proposed the budget through the NEP, and therefore, we take responsibility for what appears in the NEP,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
“If it is true that there are items which were not in the NEP, then we do not know where that came from; we leave it to the House to do as it deems proper with these items,” he added.
The proposed amendments, that were read by presiding speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, included the following:
• Additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, P5.5 billion for rehabilitation following Typhoon “Ompong”’s destruction of the cereal and salad bowl of the Philippines;
• Health Facilities Enhancement Program, Department of Health, P3 billion. This was reduced to practically nil at P50 million, but hospitals need equipment.
• Health Human Resources Development, DoH P3 billion, to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, doctors and dentists;
• Capital Outlay for State Universities and Colleges, P1.2 billion to complement free public college;
• Technical Vocational Laboratories in the Department of Education, P3 billion to address the missing link in K-12, to guarantee that graduates are job-ready;
• Roads to Decongest Traffic in the Urban Areas, P11 billion. This is to decongest traffic in urban areas in the hope of partially relieving the daily calvary of commuters;
• Roads to Identified Tourism Areas, P10 billion, intended to boost tourism receipts by easing the access to tourist draws;
• Roads to Trade Areas, Economic Zones, Livelihood Centers and Markets, P10 billion,because to create jobs, roads through which commerce and workers will pass are indispensable;
• Department of Agriculture-Farm to market Roads, P5 billion. This partially restores the P5 billion cut in the DA, and to comply with the safety net pledge to rice farmers.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu appealed to his colleagues to participate in the budget deliberation in the plenary.
“We will once again gather at the plenary to debate on the nation’s budget for the next fiscal year. I would like to call on all the members of this 17th congress to participate in the deliberations. We must leave no rock unturned, and no centavo left to chance, and ensure that we finish on time,” Abu said.
Roque said the budget row is due to the amounts which are not included in the NEP, as these are the nature of insertions.
“So, we take full responsibility for everything found in the NEP, but we respect the constitutional prerogative of Congress to alter the NEP,” he said.
“We stand by what appears in the NEP. We appeal that the proposed budget as submitted should be approved, and we leave it to the House to discharge its constitutional mandate to exercise its power over the purse,” he maintained. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Nat Mariano