THE Senate is targeting to approve in plenary all agency budgets in time for approving the 2024 General Appropriations bill on second and third reading by next week, the chair of the lead Finance committee said on Monday.
Since resuming sessions two weeks ago, senators have tackled the individual budgets of agencies in a bid to finish all deliberations after the House of Representatives transmitted its version of the annual money measure.
Senators were momentarily delayed by discussions on the controversial requests for confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) of certain agencies that do not have national security mandates, but the issue was settled last week after Vice President Sara Duterte withdrew requests for CIF both for her OVP and the Department of Education.
Angara said several big agencies’ budgets still have to be tackled, such as those of the Commission on Elections, Department of Defense, Commission on Elections, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Tourism, etc. adding: “Malalaking mga agencies so hopefully efficient kami sa pagtanong…magsa-submit yung members ng amendments [They’re key agencies, so hopefully, we’re good at crafting the questions. The membrs will submit amendments].”
Meanwhile Angara indicated they are targeting, “I think first or second week of December,” to submit the budget to the President.”
Their “self-imposed” deadline is meant to beat the deadline before the Christmas holiday recess and avoid a reenacted budget.
The work flow follows the schedule of past years, which “is dictated by the legislature calendar,” he said, indicating that “we can’t stray too far from that, we are adjusting. The adjustment is that we’re holding sessions until late nights,” even on Thursdays and Fridays. “We can do the second and third reading on the same day,” he said, signalling it could be “next week.”
Still, he declined to give a categorical answer when asked if he anticipates there would be no more controversial issues in the bicameral talks to clear the way for the final version to be submitted to Malacanang for signing into law by the President.