Duterte to approve P3.7T budget bill by end Q1 once Congress submits it early March - Diokno
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign into law a proposed P3.757 trillion budget bill for this year before the end of the first quarter once Congress submits the enrolled bill by the first week of March, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Wednesday.
In his regular weekly forum, Diokno said Congress has promised to forward the enrolled appropriations bill for this year by March 1.
"Frankly, I have not seen the enrolled copy of the bill. So, we don't have the bill. My understanding (is) it will take about, not a few more days, but weeks, the new schedule is (March) 1st. They will give the President on (March) 1st the enrolled copy of the bill," he said.
The enrolled bill means it has the signatures of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
Diokno said it was a "wrong impression" that the enrolled bill was already with the Office of the President after the bicameral conference committee of Congress approved the proposed budget on February 8.
"It's still in the printing press. In fact, they have not started the printing," the budget chief said.
The government is currently operating under the 2018 reenacted budget due to Congress' failure to immediately pass the General Appropriations Bill last year.
Diokno said once the enrolled appropriations' bill is received by the OP, the Department of Budget and Management people have "4-7 days" to prepare the so-called statement of difference.
"We'll go through the budget line by line. The President's budget and enrolled copy. Line by line and that's a three-volume document, about 5,000 pages. And then in every line, if there are amendments, we will make a recommendation to the President," Diokno explained.
He said Duterte has 30 days from receipt of the enrolled bill to act on it, such as to exercise line-item veto power.
Unlike in the United States, he noted that under the Philippine Constitution, the president could veto certain provisions in the budget, tax and tariff bills.
But he assured that it would not take 30 days for the President to act on the enrolled GAB.
"We will have a new budget by the end of the first quarter," he said.
Due to the delay in the passage of the budget for one quarter, Diokno said the executive branch has a "catch up plan."
He said that he has to meet the individual agencies to figure out their respective monthly program for the next 10 months.
While there will be an election ban in the implementation of some public works construction, Diokno said that the foreign-assisted projects are not covered.
Among the official development assistance projects that will push through are the Japanese-funded Metro Manila subway and other rail projects.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the subway project could take place before the end of February, Diokno said.
He also said that Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar is also preparing a list of projects that will be exempted from the election ban.
With the May midterm elections, the Commission on Elections will impose a ban on public works construction and disbursement of public funds from March 29 to May 12.
Diokno earlier said that the Palace would ask Comelec to exempt from the ban those included in the 75 flagship infrastructure projects. Celerina Monte/DMS