Suspension of House sessions won’t delay budget deliberations | Inquirer News
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Suspension of House sessions won’t delay budget deliberations

/ 04:49 AM August 04, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The suspension of the House’s plenary sessions during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila will not affect deliberations on the proposed 2022 national budget.

House appropriations panel chair and ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap gave assurance that the P5-trillion spending plan for next year will be up for third and final reading by Oct. 1.

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Yap told reporters that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has until Aug. 26 to submit the budget proposal to Congress as provided in the Constitution.

“I heard that they will submit it by Aug. 23. Once they pass it to us, that’s only then that we can create a bill to file in the plenary. By that time, the suspension of plenary sessions would be over,” he said.

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“The challenge for us is to finish it early by Oct. 1, because of the filing of candidacies. It should be on third reading by Oct. 1, so we can pass the budget on time,” he added.

The executive branch has yet to submit the National Expenditure Plan (NEP) to Congress, although Malacañang said the proposal had been submitted by Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado before he went on medical leave.

Upon receipt of the NEP, the House will deliberate on the proposed allocations for government agencies and programs.

The government has set a budget ceiling of P5 trillion for next year’s spending plan.

Yap said the House might conduct up to four committee hearings a day in order to finish budget deliberations at the committee level in one week.

He said Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and other senior lawmakers have coordinated with the House committees to ensure a “smooth budget deliberation.”

“We will make sure that questions posed by congressmen will be adequately addressed by the agencies involved. This budget cannot be delayed because this is our last budget and we are still in a pandemic so we cannot afford a reenacted budget,” Yap said.

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On Monday, Velasco announced that the lower chamber would not hold plenary sessions from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20, or during the ECQ in Metro Manila. The Senate has also suspended plenary sessions during the period.

Velasco gave assurance that “vital measures can still be tackled as committee hearings will still be held via remote.”

Mark Llandro Mendoza, the House secretary general, said regular office work in the House of Representatives would be suspended beginning Aug. 5.

During the ECQ period, plenary sessions will be suspended and all congressional offices closed. All meetings, including committee hearings will be held via videoconferencing only.

Mendoza said only secretariat personnel with extremely essential tasks would be allowed to report physically to the office but they would have to undergo antigen testing.

Vaccination of House employees will proceed should there be available vaccines, with concerned individuals to be notified accordingly.

The House leadership cited the “heightened restrictions being imposed due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, and for the health and safety of our House members and employees.”

Velasco said such measures were necessary as authorities try to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in Metro Manila.

“The threat of this Delta variant is real, as evidenced by the surge in cases in certain regions around the world. By suspending regular office work and other preventive measures, we hope to contribute to the government’s effort in preventing a surge of infection that could possibly put our health care system in serious jeopardy,” he said.

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TAGS: 2022 national budget, House of Representatives
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