Senate, House reach ‘some progress’ on 2019 budget but deadlock stays
MANILA, Philippines — Congress still failed to break the deadlock on the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) even after a meeting on Monday.
Instead, a three-man panel both from the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to meet again on Tuesday to once and for all resolve their issues on the budget.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who presided over the meeting, nevertheless reported to the media that there were “some progress” after the meeting.
“Some progress. We’re still working on it. We’ll meet again tom,” he said in a text message.
“Hopefully, we can follow through and finalize tom,” the senator added.
Aside from Lacson, Senators Loren Legarda and Gringo Honasan comprise the Senate contingent.
The three-man team from the House, meanwhile, is composed of Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya, San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Andaya, chair of the House committee on appropriations, said that while they have yet to meet on Tuesday, both camps already agreed on one thing and that is to have a new budget.
And he remained hopeful they could agree on a new budget before March 29.
“Wala na, wala ng contentious point…” Andaya told reporters after the meeting.
“We had a very lively conversation. We were able to explain both our sides in a very conducive manner for understanding at hopefully sana tomorrow, we are able to come into an agreement.”
“At this point in time, it’s very positive that we can come to an agreement. Hopefully tomorrow we can get there,” he added.
Andaya said they temporarily set aside the issue on lump sum appropriations of the Senate, which the House later itemized even after the GAB was already ratified by both chambers last February 8.
But the Senate insisted that any changes in the ratified measure is in violation of the Constitution.
“For now, medyo isinantabi muna ‘yung usapan sa lump sum. We have just agreed to move forward muna and major step today na naguusap na kami at nagkakaintindihan na kami,” Andaya said.
So when asked if the 2019 GAB is stlll “pork-free, Andaya quoted the Supreme Court that a budget is “pork-free if everything is itemized.”
The lawmaker said the issue of realignments by the House was also clarified during the hearing.
But when asked whether they indeed made some realignments in the budget, Andaya said: “Kung kinonfirm ko ‘yun eh hindi kami magkakaintindihan.” /kga
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