2020 national budget ‘pork-free’

THE House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 1, transmitted the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 to the Senate ahead of the month-long break beginning Oct. 4 for its consideration and approval.

According to Deputy Speaker Neptali M. Gonzales II of Mandaluyong City, the spending plan is “pork-free,” inviting the Senate to “see for themselves.”

“Again and again, we contend that it is a pork-free budget as we strictly confined ourselves to the decision of the Supreme Court which declared the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) unconstitutional and prohibited the post-enactment identification of projects. Now, senators can finally see the budget for themselves,” he said.

The House also introduced a few changes in the outlay before submitting the budget to the Senate.

The changes are augmentations given to 12 agencies — P3.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s palay procurement fund, P1 billion each for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, P800 million for the Department of Education, and P500 million each for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Philippine General Hospital; National Electrification Administration; Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Philippine Sports Commission.

An additional P275 million was given to the Department of Transportation for the Davao International Airport, while P250 million was given to the Dangerous Drugs Board for the improvement of community-based drug rehab centers.

The Department of Health also received some P200 million for combatting the polio outbreak and dengue.

According to Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman, the 2020 budget was approved by the House early “to avoid the kind of costly delay we had this year, which cost the economy about P500 billion and slowed down economic growth.

“This really took its toll on the economy. It meant fewer jobs created and lesser income for our people. It meant scaled down government services,” he said.

He added that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano wanted to avoid a repeat of the delay in the enactment of the 2019 national budget.

The 2019 budget was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 15 after he vetoed P95 billion in last-minute realignments made by House leaders.

Sen. Sonny Angara said the Senate has received the House of Representatives-approved General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2020 and promised that the Senate will do its part to approve the GAB before the end of the year.

“Our finance subcommittees are completing the hearings on the proposed budgets of the last few agencies. During the break, we will be consolidating all of the submissions into the committee report and once we resume sessions, we will be ready to sponsor the bill in plenary,” he said. 

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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