Legarda: No reenacted budget for 2018
There will be no reenacted national budget for next year despite several differences on the allocations that the Senate and House of Representatives wanted for government to spend.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, was hopeful on Sunday that the Senate and House would be able to iron out their differences and ratify the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget measure in two weeks’ time.
“I am optimistic, I am confident there will be no reenacted budget,” Legarda said in a radio interview.
She said that they were looking at ratifying the budget bill either on Dec.11 or Dec.12 as she expressed hope she would get the support of fellow lawmakers on this target date.
Congress goes on recess on Dec.15, but its last session day will be on Dec.13.
President Rodrigo Duterte is said to be expecting to sign into law on Dec. 19 not only the proposed 2018 national budget but also the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion bill.
There were at least two issues that the bicameral conference committee or the Senate and House panels tackling the budget measure had disagreements.
These were the Senate’s move to cut P50.7 billion from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions, and the Senate’s realignment of the Philippine National Police’s P900-million drug campaign budget and the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s P500 million for its own drug program, to housing for policemen and soldiers.
On the DPWH budget cut, Legarda said the two panels would meet on Monday with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar to find out which DPWH projects had ROW or legal problems whose allocations could be removed and realigned somewhere.
“This means projects that could not yet be implemented (because of ROW problems),” Legarda said.
But she assured that ongoing projects whose allocations were taken and realigned could still be returned.
“What they were asking was that the allocations of those problematic projects for educational assistance, chalk allowance and Philippine health insurance,” the senator added.
“That is the objective and not to remove the project of anyone. We support the ‘Build, Build, Build (program),’” she said.
As for the removal of the “Oplan Tokhang” budget, Legarda said it was “very clear” the allocation was realigned to housing for policemen and soldiers as she assured there were enough funds for the police to conduct their antidrug campaign.
The Senate took out the anti-drug funds from the PNP since Mr. Duterte had directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to lead the campaign instead of the police.
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