House to pass 2020 national budget, says Romualdez

The leadership of the House of Representatives has reiterated its commitment to pass a constitutionally compliant national government budget, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said Tuesday.

BUDGET DELIBERATION. House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez (center) discusses Tuesday with House Speaker Rep. Alan Petet Cayetano (left) and Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago the flow of budget deliberation at the plenary of the House of Representatives during the caucus of the majority at Nograles Hall. Ver Noveno
“We assure the Filipino taxpayers that the 2020 budget will be a reflection not only of the President’s vision, but also of the people’s will,” said Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules.

Romualdez said “the passage of President Duterte’s 2020 proposed national budget will marshal a budget for meaningful change.”

At the same time, Romualdez maintained that the House leaders “are committed to pass a constitutionally compliant national budget. The House leadership will comply with the Supreme Court decisions that outlawed the Priority Development Assistance Fund [PDAF] and the Disbursement Acceleration Program [DAP].”

In related developments:

• Government workers from national agencies under the banner of the All Government Employees Unity took to Senate Tuesday their fight for a substantial pay hike, following what it called the ‘sly’ approval of the 2020 budget by the House appropriations committee. 

According to the committee chairman, the P4.1-trillion proposed spending program was endorsed unanimously by the executive house body following a closed-door meeting on Monday.

“While we do not want a repeat of the record delay in the 2018 General Appropriations Act approval, the people’s coffers should not be handled in haste. Transparency and accountability should not be sacrificed for their self-imposed deadline,” slammed Santiago Dasmariñas Jr. National President of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees. 

Public sector education workers from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines also raised that the proposed 2020 funding still contained questionable allocations, such as the ‘measly’ P31-billion pay hike budget for 1.5-million government employees, with more than half of those belonging to public school teachers.

“The House committee has just robbed us of hope like a thief in the night. We were banking on the 2020 budget deliberations to give our just demand for substantial salary increase a fair chance but our legislators failed us,” lamented Joselyn Martinez, ACT Philippines chairperson. 

• The House leadership Monday night endorsed for Senate action President Rodrigo Duterte’s two priority bills aimed at ensuring the country’s high and sustainable economic growth performance.

The House, led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, House Majority Leader Romualdez and Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, approved Monday night on third and final reading House Bill 304 or the “Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act [PIFITA],” and HB 300 or the “Amendment of the Foreign Investments Act [FIA].”

“This is our commitment to propel economic growth to greater heights. It is the duty of the 18th Congress to help sustain the successes of the President’s programs and projects to continue this momentum for economic takeoff,” said Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules.

The House approved House Bill 307 or the fourth package of the Duterte administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program  known as Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act by a 186-6-2 vote.

Also on Monday, House approved the proposed bill allowing foreign professionals to get employed.

This developed as the House began its plenary discussion on House Bill 4228 or the proposed P4.1- trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2020, with Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, and several other House leaders delivering their sponsorship speeches on the money  measure.

Ungab said the 2020 national government budget reflected the President’s dreams and aspirations for the Filipino people.

The chamber is scheduled to  approve the 2020 GAB on final reading by Oct. 4, before Congress goes on a Halloween break.

Also, Cayetano said the chamber alloted additional funding for the government’s program to buy palay (unhusked rice) from local farmers, as well as the necessary funding for the development of police and military camps nationwide, among others.

At the sidelines of the House plenary debates on the money measure, Cayetano said the House had secured the necessary funding for  these two programs.

Cayetano added the chamber also eyed an initial amount of P500 million each to improve the military and police facilities.

Prior to the plenary debates on the money measure, Ungab said his panel rejected the request of at least 60 congressmen to restore in the next year’s budget the P95 billion worth of projects vetoed in this year’s appropriations.

Ungab said: “If you are going to include that in the 2020 budget, it’s a huge amount, it may affect the department which allocation has been slashed.  In other words, operations of the department will suffer.

“I have to be frank that their requests will be impossible because if we entertain, their operations will be adversely affected.”

But Ungab said he believed the projects whose allocations were either slashed or vetoed were beneficial to the constituents of these congressmen.

He said the House needed to meet with the executive to act on the appeal for the restoration of these allocations.

Meanwhile, Romualdez said the next year’s national budget would be “pork-less” and would no longer contain lump sums, except for certain appropriations like the calamity and the contingency funds.

“We are committed to pass a constitutionally compliant national budget. The House leadership will comply with the Supreme Court decisions that outlawed the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program,” said Romualdez.

He said the pork barrel system was a thing of the past.

“Line item budgeting system will be strictly observed to ensure transparency and accountability in the disbursement of public funds,” he added.

Topics: House of Representatives , Martin Romualdez , Alan Peter Cayetano , National Budget , Rodrigo Duterte
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