Congress ratifies P3.757 trillion budget for 2019
Congress ratified the P 3.757 trillion national budget for 2019 late Friday after the bicameral conference committee approved it.
The House of Representatives gave the nod first, followed by the Senate. The government had been running under the reenacted 2018 budget.
In nominal voting during the plenary session, 15 senators voted yes while five dissented. The dissenters were Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson Jr, Benigno Aquino III, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan.
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of Senate committee on finance, mentioned highlights and amendments included in the approved national budget.
Some of the amendments were P1.775 billion net increase for the Congress, P215.7 billion increase for the Office of the Vice President, an increase of P2.521 billion for the budget allocated to the Department of Education and P21.523 billion net increase for the Department of Health.
The Department of Public Works and Highways will have a P32.923 billion increase in their budget for 2019. Legarda said as far as Senate is concerned, "there are no imagined projects, all are agency request with program of work."
''The net increase is due to the cut in the Right-of-Way (ROW) and foreign-assisted projects which will be offset by the increase in local infrastructure projects,'' she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had a P6.855 billion net decrease due to a cut in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games budget.
Lacson, who dissented the proposed budget, said during his privilege speech that he has always been "at odds with the evil called 'pork'."
The senator also described the 2019 national budget as "pork-ridden and cholesterol rich," emphasizing the alleged insertion in the budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Lacson also challenged members of both houses of Congress to "own up" to their budget amendments.
"[M]any would discredit my assertions on pork barrel insertions in both Houses. Thus, in the spirit of transparency and to dismiss any suspicion, I am forthright in making all my budget amendments available to public scrutiny. I pose a challenge to all lawmakers from both houses of Congress to henceforth do the same - own up to all our budget amendments," Lacson asserted.
Drilon, who voted "no" in the bicameral committee report, said "to give my vote to this budget is like signing a blank check." He described the budget as "toxic atmosphere."
"I am not convinced that the 2019 national budget is in sync with what this government wants to accomplish," the minority leader explained. "The unsubstantiated and unfair claims regarding pork barrel allocations make each member of the Senate a suspect," Drilon added.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr., chairman of the House committee on appropriations and head of the House panel in the bicameral conference committee, said the latter junked Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s cash-based budgeting system, which means this year’s national budget will be in effect until 2020.
“We agreed to junk Sec. Diokno’s one year cash-based system,” Andaya told reporters after the bicam report was signed by its members at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Commissioned Officers Club at Camp Aguinaldo.
Andaya also moved for a special provision in the national budget for the Department of Budget and Management to release the P2.3-billion unreleased internal revenue allotment (IRA) for local government units (LGUs).. Cristina Eloisa Baclig/DMS