P3.35T nat’l budget approved at bicameral conference | Inquirer News
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P3.35T nat’l budget approved at bicameral conference

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 10:38 AM December 13, 2016

The proposed P3.35-trillion national budget was finally approved on Tuesday at the congressional bicameral conference committee after the House of Representatives gave in to the Senate’s version on the P8.3-billion funds originally allotted to the Autonomous in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“While we agree to the final version of the Senate regarding the ARMM budget, we maintain that what we did was within the law,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said during the hearing of the committee.

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“Because what the Organic Law prohibits is the use of funds appropriated for the autonomous region by other agencies but Congress is free to allocate funds even outside of the autonomous region for implementation by other departments,” Fariñas said.

In its version of the proposed national budget, the House transferred the P8.3 billion from the ARMM to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but it was removed in the Senate’s version of the budget bill as proposed by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

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Lacson said that it would be a violation of the ARMM’s Organic Act if the funds would be given to the DPWH to implement projects within the region.

“We can debate this endlessly, however, do you want us to pass a bicam (report) or do you want us to debate this?” Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said after Fariñas’ remark.

Fariñas reiterated that the House panel will no longer object to the proposal of the Senate, saying he was just explaining that it was their belief that the fund transfer was pursuant to the law.

The two panels later agreed to just transfer the P8.3-billion funds to the Commission on Higher Education (Ched).

After hurdling the bicameral committee, the proposed budget measure will then be sent back to the Senate and the House for ratification before transmitting it to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature.

Legarda said the Senate will ratify the budget on Tuesday. The President, she said, will sign the budget bill on December 22.

Davao City Representative Karlo Alexie Nograles, chair of the House committee on appropriations, said the House gave in to the Senate just to avoid a reenacted budget next year.

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“Because otherwise we’ll have a reenacted budget. Nobody wanted to give way e. Eventually sabi namin o sige para lang magkaroon na ng budget, first budget ng President binigay na lang kasi wala e, otherwise, hindi tayo uusad dito (we said, go ahead, just so we can have a budget; it’s the President’s first budget, and we just gave it, otherwise, we won’t move forward),” Nograles said after the hearing.

But the congressman dispelled any misconceptions that the P8.3 billion that the House wanted to transfer to the DPWH was “pork.”

“When it passed through the scrutiny of the House of Representatives, we make sure that’s pork-free,” Nograles said.

Even with the budget cut, Legarda explained that the ARMM still has a P10-billion budget for infrastructure projects next year and another P3.6 billion from the central government, also for public works projects. CDG/rga

READ: Congress sees passage of 2017 budget this week

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TAGS: bicameral conference committee, budget, House of Representatives, Senate
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