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House: Budget okayed before Christmas

Leaders of the House of Representatives on Tuesday assured that the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019 would be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before the year ends.

Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora, the main plenary sponsor of the national budget, said this after the House failed to approve the National Expenditures Program on third and final reading before Congress adjourned last week for its month-long Halloween break.

As senior vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, Zamora said House Bill 8169, or the General Appropriations Bill of 2019, is still being fine-tuned by the congressional small committee tasked to receive and consolidate amendments to the money measure.

The House, through a voice voting, approved the budget bill on second reading last week. Zamora said the House is ready to approve the bill on final reading in the plenary when Congress resumes its session on Nov. 12.

“Our target is that when Congress resumes after the break, we will be able to approve the budget on third and final reading. After the House approves it, we will send it to the Senate to reconcile our versions,” said Zamora.

“Once both houses of Congress agree, then we can finally send the budget to the President for his approval,” she added.

The House had to thoroughly examine HB 8169 following the discovery of the alleged P52-billion insertions that were ordered realigned by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to important projects for “equitable and fair distribution of funds.”

The alleged insertions that were being questioned were already realigned to the following items when the House convened into a committee of the whole:

• P5 billion as additional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for the rehabilitation of areas badly hit by Typhoon “Ompong,” especially Cagayan Valley;

• P3 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH), which was reduced to P50 million;

• P3 billion for the DOH’s Health Human Resources Development “to stave off the mass layoff of 6,000 nurses, and doctors and dentists as well”;

• P1.2 billion for the Capital Outlay of State Universities and Colleges;

• P3 billion for Technical-Vocational Laboratories under the Department of Education;

• P11 billion for roads to decongest traffic in urban areas;

• P10 billion for roads for identified tourism areas;

• P10 billion for roads to trade areas, economic zones, livelihood centers and markets; and

•  P5 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s farm-to-market roads (FMRs).

For the fiscal year 2019, the education sector will get the lion’s share of the national budget.

Of the proposed appropriation of P659.3 billion for the education sector, P528.8 billion will be allocated to DepEd; P65.2 billion will go to State Colleges and Universities; P50.5 billion to Commission on Higher Education; and P14.8 billion to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The DPWH will receive the second highest allocation with P555.7 billion, an increase of 25.8 percent or P113.9 billion compared to its P441.8 billion budget in 2018.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government will receive the third largest appropriation in 2019 with P225.6 billion—30.9 percent or P53.2 billion than its 2018 funding of P172.4 billion.

The other top recipients are the Department of National Defense, P183.4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P173.3 billion; Department of Health, P141.2 billion, which includes P67.4 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.; Department of Transportation, P141.4 billion; Department of Agriculture, P76.1 billion; the Judiciary with P37.3 billion; and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, P32.3 billion.

The infrastructure program for 2019, which shall receive an appropriation of P909.7 billion, will fuel the administration’s massive Build, Build, Build Program, House leaders said.

Topics: House of Representatives , national budget , Rodrigo Duterte , Maria Carmen Zamora , National Expenditures Program
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