Restore funds cut by Senate, Duterte urged

Rolando Andaya Jr.

WHILE President Rodrigo Duterte is reviewing the proposed 2019 national budget, a House leader appealed to him to restore some allocations slashed by senators.

In a statement, House Committee on Appropriations chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya  said the House of Representatives will respect whatever is the decision of President Duterte on the 2019 national budget.

Earlier, President Duterte threatened to veto the budget if he finds it problematic.

“The President knows what is best for the country and our people,” Andaya said.

According to Andaya, If President Duterte eventually decides to adopt a reenacted budget throughout the year, that will give him an opportunity to restore more than P80 billion which was taken by the Senate from allocations intended for the President’s  projects.

“In making his final decision, I firmly believe that the President will take into consideration the drastic budget cuts imposed by the Senate,” he said.

“We have repeatedly warned that the billions of pesos slashed from the 2019 budget just to fund the senators’ pet projects would hamper the implementation of the President’s major infrastructure program,” Andaya added.

The House of Representatives is confident that the Office of the President would consider its exposes in their review of the 2019 General Approriations Bill and find ways to restore the Senate budget cuts in the President’s veto message. 

Andaya said they specifically appeal for the restoration of these items taken out of the 2019 GAB by the Senate: Department of Transportation - P5 billion for right-of-way projects; Department of Public Works and Highways - P 11.033 billion for right-of-way projects;  Foreign Assisted Projects under DPWH - P2.5 billion; Tehnical Education and Skills Development Authority - P3 billion for scholarship of rebel returnees, out-of-school youths and rehabilitating drug dependents enrolled under the Universal Access to Tertiary Education:  Department of Environment and Natural Resources - P2.254 billion for National Greening Program; Department of Foreign Affairs - P7.5 billion budget for SEA Games taken out, but P5 billion transferred to Philippine Sports Commission and P2.5 billion nowhere to be found; Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund - P13.4 billion and the Pension and Gratuity Fund - P39 billion.

On the other hand, Andaya poin-ted out that in support of President Duterte’s legislative agenda, the House of Representatives has approved all of the President’s priority bills in record time. 

“We took extra time, however, to examine the 2019 national budget after we discovered billions of pesos inserted for projects not vetted by departments and other offices of the executive department. We eventually passed a national budget that will pass the test of constitutionality and legality, but also of transparency and accountability. All appropriations for government programs and projects are itemized, in full compliance with the laws of the land and recent Supreme Court decisions,” he said.

However, Andaya said, they cannot turn a blind eye to efforts by the Senate to sabotage the President’s priority programs and projects.