TO allay fears of the senators of a reenacted budget, the House of Representatives yesterday approved on third and final reading the proposed national budget for 2019.
With a vote of 196-8, House Bill 8169 or the Fiscal Year 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) provides for a national budget of P3.757 trillion.
In a press conference, Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the copy of the bill will be immediately sent to the Senate.
Contrary to the first announcement that it will be passed on November 28, the House decided to expedite the approval to assure the Senate that there will be no reenacted budget for next year.
“The Senate President texted me and I assured him we will pass it early this week. There will be no delays, hindi magkakaroon ng reenacted budget. My assurance they will get the budget on time,” Andaya said.
Asked about the alleged insertions, Andaya admitted that requests from several officials including President Rodrigo Duterte caused the delays of the approval.
According to Andaya, the President continues to ask Congress for projects in different parts of the country, particularly the housing program.
He said most likely, the Congress will grant the P2 billion request of Duterte for the housing projects to be awarded to policemen and soldiers. This budget will be given to the National Housing Agency (NHA).
“He (Duterte) has been going around, and pag may makita siya, tumatawag nag-re-request kung pwedeng isama sa budget. Mga daan, mga kalsada na dapat ayusin pinapasama niya,” Andaya said.
Meanwhile, Andaya said other insertions and funding sources can be discussed with the senators in the bicam.
It can be recalled that the House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo realigned some P52 billion in so-called pork barrel funds inserted in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2019.
The realigned amount is almost equal to the P55 billion discovered by some House leaders as pork barrel funds “parked” by some influential administration officials and lawmakers in the DPWH outlay and spread among at least 40 congressional districts.
As always, the education sector will get the lion’s share of the national budget. The total proposed funding for the Department of Education (DepEd), state universities and colleges (SUCs), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of P659.3 billion marks a 12.3 percent or P72.2 billion growth over their 2018 budget of P587.1 billion.
Of the proposed appropriations of P659.3 billion for the education sector, P528.8 billion will be allocated to DepEd, P65.2 billion will go to SUCs, P50.5 billion to CHED and P14.8 billion to TESDA.
The DPWH will receive the second highest allocation with P555.7 billion, which represents an increase of 25.8 percent or P113.9 billion compared to its P441.8 billion budget in 2018.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will receive the third largest appropriation in 2019 with P225.6 billion. This is 30.9 percent or P53.2 billion more than its 2018 funding of P172.4 billion.
The other top recipients shall be the Department of National Defense (DND), P183.4 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P173.3 billion; Department of Health (DoH), P141.2 billion, which includes P67.4 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC); Department of Transportation (DoTr), P141.4 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), P76.1 billion; the Judiciary with P37.3 billion; and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), P32.3 billion.
The infrastructure program for 2019, which shall receive an appropriation of P909.7 billion, will fuel the administration’s massive Build Build Build Program.