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Bicam clash looms as Senate OKs budget bill

/ 05:33 AM January 22, 2019

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019, paving the way for a bicameral conference and the President’s possible signing of the bill by the end of the month.

There have been concerns that the conference could be a bit bloody, given the changes to the budget that the Senate had made.

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Among the amendments were the reduction in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) due to the cuts in the road right of way allocations and the removal of projects that had not been part of the department’s original submission to the Department of Budget and Management, according to Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the finance committee.

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Legarda said this would be partially offset by an increase in local government projects.

The DPWH was earlier given an additional P75 billion in the national expenditure program.

The Senate also gave the Department of Health an additional P16.8 billion for its health facilities enhancement program and another P4.8 billion for the salaries of health personnel.

The Senate measure provided P10 billion for the rice competitiveness enhancement fund, a key component of the rice tariffication bill.

It also provided P10 billion for the coconut farmers industry development fund, P18 billion for the implementation of the universal health care law and P40 billion for the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

P60 million each

In a television interview on Monday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that of the P75 billion added to the DPWH budget, P51.7 billion was distributed to nearly 300 members of the House of Representatives, who got P60 million each.

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Another P31.8 billion went to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management fund, local government support funds and farm-to-market road projects, Lacson said.

Only P7 billion remained with the DPWH in the House version of the budget, he said.

Lacson said the bulk of the funds went to the second district of Pampanga, whose representative is Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo on Monday said she would push for a P20-billion increase in the budget of the Department of Agriculture to help the agency address inflation and food shortages. —With a report from DJ Yap

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TAGS: 2019 national budget, bicameral conference committee
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