Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said Monday the administration’s plan to increase the budget allocation for infrastructure and human capital investment in 2020 would help sustain the country’s high economic growth and reduce poverty.
“Our economic managers are on the right track. If we support the roadmap that they had presented, reducing poverty by almost a half in 2022 is doable,” said Romualdez, a strong contender for Speaker in the 18th Congress.
“Definitely, I support the economic team’s road map. Much has been done, but more challenges remain. I will ask our [congressional] leaders to immediately buckle down to work and discuss this roadmap in our next multi-party caucus,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.
Romualdez issued the statement shortly after he attended this year’s pre-State of the Nation Economic and Infrastructure Forum held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, upon the invitation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
“I am thankful for Secretary Sonny’s invitation as this event provided me with the complete picture of the country’s economic situation from the viewpoint of our economic managers. This will help us, congressmen, in our quest to help find solutions to the challenges that we face on the economic front,” Romualdez said.
What struck him during the Cabinet officials’ presentation, Romualdez said, was the urgent need for Congress to allocate more funds for public infrastructure and human capital development next year.
“The economic managers were unanimous in telling us that public expenditures on these major items are the key to attracting more foreign direct investments. Investors need reliable road networks to transport economic goods. They need a competent work-force to ensure world-class products and services,” Romualdez said.
The Leyte lawmaker said this is the reason the 18th Congress needs to pass the 2020 proposed national budget on time and make sure that public infrastructure and human development get the biggest allocations next year.
Romualdez noted that in the 2019 National Expenditure Program, the President’s economic team listed infrastructure and human development as the top recipients, with P1.215 trillion, or about 33.3 percent of the proposed P3.757-trillion budget.
“We expect the same priorities in the 2020 NEP so we now have an idea on what to work on in the next series of our multi-party caucuses in the 18th Congress. We have to hit the ground running and map out strategies on how to fast-track the President’s priority bills,” he said.
“In our first caucus last week, we all agreed to pass the 2020 General Appropriations Bill by October. This self-imposed deadline will give he Senate more session days for plenary debates on the budget.
Hopefully, President Duterte will have a national budget ready for his signature before the end of the year,” Romualdez said.
Meanwhile, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano said Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco should apologize to President Rodrigo Duterte for denying an agreement between the two of them to share the three-year term of the speaker.
Both Cayetano and Velasco from the President’s ruling PDP-Laban want to be Speaker, but neither has received the President’s endorsement.
“It’s okay if he lies because politicians lie,” Cayetano told the ANC news channel in a mix of English and Filipino. “I was watching him here. But to call the President [a] liar by saying there’s no such agreement, I’ll not take that sitting down.”
Cayetano claims he and Velasco are covered by a term-sharing agreement, with Cayetano becoming a speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, and Velasco taking the remaining 21 months of the term.
Velasco denies any such agreement and said most House members view term sharing as divisive.