Withdrawal of appropriations bill to derail 2020 budget approval – Ungab
MANILA, Philippines – House Committee on Appropriations chairman and Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab on Monday opposed the withdrawal of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) from the plenary, saying this would “derail” the timely passage of the 2020 national budget and “raise doubts” on their proceedings.
Ungab said he officially sent a letter objecting Deputy Speaker for finance and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr.’s withdrawal of House Bill No. 4228 or the GAB, upon Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s order, last August 28.
This was also the day that the GAB was supposed to be read on first reading.
In his letter, Ungab told Villafuerte that the printing of the GAB by Apo Production Unit Inc. and the National Economic and Development Authority was almost finished and that copies of which could be immediately distributed to members of the House of Representatives once delivered.
“Your proposal to withdraw and amend the General Appropriations Bill for FY (fiscal year) 2020 will definitely derail the schedule and approval of the budget,” Ungab said.
“To prepare another set of General Appropriations Bill will require enormous time, efforts and resources that will surely affect or delay the passage of the 2020 Budget,” he added.
Any “alteration” to the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the Department of Budget and Management would “surely raise doubts [and questions] on our proceedings,” Ungab said.
According to the appropriations panel’s schedule, the last budget briefing day is set on September 6, and the preparation of the committee report would be on September 10.
Plenary deliberations are also scheduled to start on September 12 until October 4, which is the planned approval of the GAB on third and final reading.
In a statement Sunday, Villafuerte defended his move, saying HB 4228’s filing on first reading was “premature” considering that all departments and other agencies of the government have yet to finish presenting their respective budget proposals at the committee level.
“The bill’s withdrawal was not an issue. It was just a procedural mater as the presentation of the budget proposals of all government offices before the House appropriations committee have yet to be completed at the time of HB 4228’s filing on first reading,” he added.
While the House leadership is “fully committed” to having the 2020 GAB passed on time and without the illegal pork barrel, Villafuerte said the “legislative process must not be done with undue haste or making a mockery of the House’s constitutional power of the purse.”
Ungab nonetheless said the various departments’ budget briefings would continue as scheduled, as of now. /gsg
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