House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez is expecting that President Rodrigo Duterte would sign into law the proposed P5.024 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before the year ends to strengthen government’s fight against COVID-19 and push the country’s economic recovery.
“It is to the best interest of our people that the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) be signed by President Duterte before the end of the year so as to avoid a reenacted budget in 2022,” he said.
Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, attended the first hybrid bicameral conference committee on Monday at Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City.
During the meeting, Romualdez, who attended physically, said senators and members of the House of Representatives agreed to immediately ratify the GAB next week.
“Leaders of the House of Representatives today reiterated our commitment to ratify before the year end the 2022 GAB in today’s meeting with our Senate counterparts at the bicameral conference,” he said.
“We join our good senators in wishing that disagreeing provisions of the Senate and House versions of the 2022 GAB be threshed out in a week’s time. We expect plenary discussion on the bicam-approved version next week, and that the final version be ratified by the Senate and the House before our Christmas break,” he added.
During the meeting, the bicam panel adopted the motion of Romualdez to authorize House committee on appropriations and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap to work with Senate finance committee chairman Senator Sonny Angara to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of the national budget.
Romualdez, Angara, Yap, House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano, Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, and Reps. Joseph Bernos of Abra and Edcel Lagman of Albay, with Senators Joel Villanueva, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, and Ronald dela Rosa, attended the face-to-face meeting.
Yap vowed to work hard with Angara to ratify the national budget next week.
“Dec. 13 is our target but hopefully by Christmas, the President could have signed the budget,” he said.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda is batting for an expanded Department of Agriculture budget that is critical to economic recovery.
He boosted Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s request for an additional P12-billion budget for the agency, citing the significance of the expanded programs in making the price of key commodities, such as meat and vegetables, “stable.”
“Inflation is the next big enemy after we have defeated the prospect of a stagnant recovery. We need lower prices for meat and vegetables, and feeds and fertilizers will play an important role,” he said.
“As I said in a speech in February this year, when it comes to livestock prices, it’s all about feeds, feeds, feeds. And the DA is proposing increased spending in the corn development program. After supply issues in meat due to the African swine fever and considering the reduced cost-competitiveness of our domestic meat industry, we need a strong feed sector,” he said.
Salceda is the House ways and means committee chairperson.
“The cost component of feed per kilo of swine meat is P64. That is at least P4 higher than our competitors. The cost of animal feed as a share of total production costs is around 60 percent. That makes cheap corn very important to lowering meat inflation, the fastest growing component of general prices this year,” he said.
“That is why I support Secretary Dar’s call for an expanded national corn program. We need to prepare the country’s corn supply for what will inevitably be a sudden spike in demand as the country’s hog production ramps up next year,” Salceda added.