DESPITE the two-day delay in its budget deliberations, the House of Representatives is still on track in finishing deliberations for the P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya Jr. explained they were able to address the backlog by holding “productive” marathon sessions.
In the first day of the resumption of budget deliberations on Monday, the Lower House held an 18-hour nonstop session.
It then approved the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and Office of the Ombudsman, as well as the over 100 state colleges and universities.
He said this is on top of exhaustive debates on the budget proposal of said government agencies.
Andaya said this was pursuant to the instruction of House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for them to complete budget deliberations on schedule.
“The Speaker wanted all interpellation on agencies scheduled for the day to be finished on time,” Andaya said in a statement.
In a separate statement, the House Appropriations committee chairman, Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, vowed to heed Arroyo’s instruction.
“We will do what is necessary to finish the budget on time, even if it means working until the wee hours of the morning,” Nograles said.
Even though they are pressed for time, Nograles said all lawmakers will still be able to scrutinize the National Expenditure Program (NEP) next year.
The House of Representatives earlier postponed its budget deliberations due to disagreements on what budget system will be used and the issue on the alleged P55-billion “pork barrel” in the NEP.
The Makabayan bloc called on colleagues, meanwhile, to put to use the pork-barrel fund for social welfare services.
“We are also pushing for the rechannelling of the pork barrel directly to public hospitals, basic and tertiary education and housing projects for the poor so that they can give free services,” the group said.
Earlier this week, Congress decided to reallocate the P55 billion to other departments, including the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which got P31 billion.
Two senators vowed on Thursday to ensure that the P16-billion annual allocation for State Universities and Colleges (SUC) in the proposed 2019 national budget will stay intact.
“I hope it is adequate, if not, we will provide a supplemental budget for SUCs,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said after presiding over the Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing on the SUCs budget for next year. “We will add to their budget if needed,” Angara told reporters after the hearing..
He explained they simply want to ensure that there will be no hitch in the government’s shift to free tuition program.
Sen. Miguel F. Zubiri, who attended the hearing, also assured the SUCs, educators and students that the Senate panel chaired by Angara “is committed to even increase the budget of SUCs.”
“I also commit to help SUCs build school buildings,”Zubiri added, telling SUC officials he will also sponsor passage of a funding bill for addditional SUCs classrooms. “You find the lot and I will help fund contruction of schoolbuilding,” Zubiri added. “I am here to help SUCs.”
Angara begged off from providing the funding details still being worked out, but said he agreed with Zubiri “that we need to fund requirements of SUCs.” Angara added that Sen. Joel Villanueva had also affirmed his commitment to support SUCs in the upcoming plenary deliberations on the 2019 national budget. With Butch Fernandez