The House of Representatives will seek changes to the 2020 national government budget that it passed Friday to finance the right-of-way claims that the government must pay for its infrastructure projects.
The changes will mean the realignment of some P10 billion, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday.
READ: House draws up new priority list
At the same time, Cayetano said the House leadership is not keen on pursuing Charter change but is focused on passing several revenue measures to spur economic growth.
“It is not in our priority,” Cayetano said of Charter change. “But we are not stopping the committee on constitutional amendments from having its own hearing.”
Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, for his part, renewed the House’s commitment to pass the budget measure that is compliant with the Constitution.
He said Congress is eyeing to pass the 2020 money measure by December to spur economic growth.
“GDP (gross domestic product) will grow, and I think all the budget and revenue reforms will even help us get a credit upgrade, which will now bring our interest [rates] down and provide for us billions of savings,” Romualdez said.
Cayetano said other projects that the P10 billion could fund is palay procurement, enhancement of the K-to 12-program, nationwide electrification, the 2020 Asean Para Games and Tokyo Olympics and the implementation of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 2018.
Of the P10 billion, half would come from the budget for barangay elections next year, which have been postponed.
On Friday, the House passed on third and final reading the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year.
Cayetano said the House is in close coordination with the Palace to prevent a possible presidential veto.
He added that he would not stop lawmakers from discussing Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 1 filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, which proposes to amend specific provisions of the 1987 Constitution and extend the term of congressmen from three years to four years while reducing the six-year term of senators to four.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said he would scrutinize the proposed 2020 budget following reports of P54 billion in pork insertions, with each congressman getting P700 million and each deputy speaker getting P1.5 billion.
Lacson told reporters his office received this information from some members of the House of Representatives.
“We have to look into it and validate it,” he said while acknowledging he has not seen the House-approved version of the budget.
Lacson said allocations for each district should be needs-based because some districts need more than others.
“Why will you make equal distribution on infrastructure which is P70 million and P30 million in soft projects. This seems wrong,” he said.
At the budget hearing for the Department of Public Works and Highways, Lacson questioned the agency’s officials led by Secretary Mark Villar, asking them why the bulk of its budget is lodged at the DPWH Central Office.
Villar said this would be much easier for the implementing agencies to download the needed funds for its projects, but Lacson said the government could realize huge savings if the budget would be distributed to regional offices.
Also on Monday, Magsasaka Party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat sought the restoration of the 2020 proposed budget of the Department of Agriculture amounting to P333.2 billion, saying the cuts imposed by the Department of Budget and Management would hurt the agricultural sector, particularly farmers.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, meanwhile, kicked off a two-week campaign for a substantial pay hike for public school teachers.
“The House of Representatives have made itself a stamp pad of the Duterte administration by passing in haste the 2020 budget after a sham deliberation. It is therefore demanded of us to intensify our actions in order to register our unyielding call for substantial pay hike,” declared ACT NCR Union Vladimer Quetua.
READ: House approves P4.1-trillion budget
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