Martin Romualdez: Another budget delay must be avoided
MANILA, Philippines — The next Congress should make sure there won’t be a repeat of the monthslong delay in the passage of the national budget, according to incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
Romualdez, president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and one of the top contenders for the speakership, said a “cohesive working relationship” was needed between Congress and the economic managers to ensure that the 2020 budget would be approved before end of the year.
“No. 1 on the list of priority bills, of course, is the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for year 2020,” he said in a statement.
“In consultation with my colleagues in the 18th Congress, all of them agreed to work double time to ensure that the House of Representatives will approve the GAB before November,” Romualdez said.
“Our mission in the House: pass the GAB in October and give the Senate until early December to act on it. Then we can both approve the General Appropriations Act before the Christmas break,” he said.
Such a timetable, he said, would give the senators more time to scrutinize and deliberate on the proposed national budget, thus providing them with enough leeway to pass the GAB before the end of 2019.
Romualdez said he sought a meeting recently with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to find ways on how to tighten the communication line and coordination between the House and the economic managers.
The passage of this year’s P3.7-trillion budget was delayed by several months as a result of political infighting between the Senate and the House, forcing the government to operate on a reenacted 2018 budget for the first four months of the year.
Senate leaders had accused the House of realigning public works and health facilities funds from certain districts to those of favored lawmakers.
House leaders, however, said they only itemized all lump-sum items and challenged the senators to do the same.
In April, President Duterte finally signed the 2019 budget law but vetoed portions of it containing P95.3 billion worth of budgetary items that were not in the government’s original priority spending program.
To avoid a repeat of that, Romualdez said House members needed a more open line with the economic managers so that they will have a clear picture of the President’s budget for 2020.
“We need to be in sync, Congress and the economic managers. This will avoid any miscommunication that may cause delay in the deliberations of the proposed national budget,” he said.
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