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Bicam urged to fast-track 2020 budget

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MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday urged the bicameral conference committee to hasten the passage of the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.

“Kung maaari, Congress, paki naman (If possible, Congress, swiftly approve it),” CNN Philippines quoted Duterte as saying.

The President said he wants to sign the proposed General Appropriations Act by December.

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved the budget bill on third and final reading. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, passed its version of the annual spending plan on 20 September.

The two chambers of Congress convened in a bicameral conference committee on Friday to thresh out differences in their respective versions of the proposed budget.

The President expressed hope that lawmakers would avoid a repeat of the delay in enacting next year’s national budget.

The national government operated on a reenacted budget from January to April this year after Congress’ failure to pass the proposed 2019 GAA in December last year.

He warned that another budget impasse would harm the Philippine economy because this would hinder the implementation of his administration’s policies and programs.

“When there is no public spending, your economy will slow down,” Duterte said.

On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace was optimistic that the bicameral panel would approve the budget bill “without prolonged partisan discussion and undue delay.”

Panelo also noted that the proposed 2020 budget aims to fund programs and projects “that will help accelerate investments in public infrastructure, improve anti-poverty measures, and intensify employment generation.”

He guaranteed that the spending plan would undergo “careful” scrutiny by the President.

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