House misses budget OK goal

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The House of Representatives missed its self-imposed deadline yesterday to pass the P3.757-trillion national budget on third and final reading before Congress takes a one-month recess as a key House member cited the need to further review it.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said there was “no chance” of approving the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as the so-called small committee still has to introduce “more amendments” before taking it back to the plenary.

Last 3 October, the House passed the budget bill on second reading after which Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. announced the forming of a small committee “to receive and resolve amendments” to the measure or House Bill 8169.

The small committee was composed of Andaya, Suarez, Vice Chairman of Appropriations Committee Maria Carmen Zamora, Malabon Rep. Federico Sandoval II, Davao Oriental Rep. Corazon Nunez-Malanyaon, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and COOP NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo.

Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, said the copies of the GAB also needed “to be printed and distributed to congressmen.”

“This will be taken up after we come back from our Halloween break (which is) on the second week of November,” Lagman said.

Lagman added Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposal for an additional P20-billion budget for the Department of Agriculture is still the “subject to the deliberations of the committee.”

Budget topic at Palace meet

Last Tuesday, a meeting was held at the Palace that included Arroyo, Mr. Duterte, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Majority Floor Leader Andaya and Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap that discussed the budget and other priority pieces of legislation of the administration.

The President also requested Arroyo to consider funding for the housing projects for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police and the financing for water system in the housing projects for the victims of super typhoon “Yolanda” in the 2019 budget.

Arroyo also committed to extend the validity of the P19.6-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund for Marawi City Rehabilitation until next year through a joint resolution of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Fed shift deferred too

Suarez said the Charter change efforts for the proposed Federal shift will likely be deferred to the next Congress even after the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments completed its own federal charter draft.

“Amending the Constitution now will take a gargantuan effort from both Houses,” Suarez said.

“With the limited time in the 17th Congress, it will not likely prosper. It may have to wait for the 18th Congress,” he added.

The House panel’s draft has marked difference from the proposal of the Mr. Duterte’s created Consultative Committee.

While the President and Vice President will have terms of four years with one reelection, the limit to seek an election was removed on legislators.

Suarez said Mr. Duterte may still certify the bill on the proposed federal charter as urgent to fast-track it.

However, senators had crossed party lines while expressing doubts the support that the draft federal charter will get in the chamber.

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