MANILA - The 2019 budget will be ready for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature next week, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rolando Andaya Jr. said Tuesday.
Government has been running on a reenacted 2018 budget since the start of the year after lawmakers failed to pass the spending law before the December 31, 2018 deadline.
"The 2019 national budget will be ready for the President's signature next week. The House of Representatives is sticking to the Wednesday target of approving the Bicameral Conference Report on the GAA for 2019," Andaya said in a statement.
This came a day after Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said President Rodrigo Duterte was "dismayed at the legislators’ inaction" on the passage of the budget as it would delay the government's massive infrastructure push.
"We are still hopeful that the legislators will perform their duties as President Duterte and his economic team did by submitting the President’s budget on the day of the SONA (State of the Nation Address), or 30 days before the constitutional deadline," Medialdea said.
The House of Representatives held budget hearings and debates for 4 months before finally transmitting it to the Senate late in November 2018, giving senators insufficient time to tackle the bill before the year-end deadline.
Though the 2019 budget is expected to be passed this week, Andaya continued to urge the executive branch to itemize the lump-sum savings of the Department of Budget and Management in 2017 and 2018.
"Documents in our possession show that for 2017, a total of P370 billion was generated in savings. This amount was at the full disposal of Sec. [Benjamin] Diokno," Andaya said.
"We also know that the amount for 2018 savings is higher. More than enough to sway the outcome of the 2019 elections, if he wants to," he said.
The budget's approval was also dragged by Andaya's allegations that Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno had inserted at least P75 billion into the proposed 2019 funding for the Department of Public Works and Highways in favor of his in-laws who were working as government contractors in Bicol.
Andaya brought up the issue against Diokno shortly after Sen. Panfilo Lacson revealed that House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and one of her allies from Camarines Sur would be getting some P4 billion worth of projects under the 2019 budget.
Arroyo's Pampanga district will be getting P2.4 billion, while another lawmaker from Camarines Sur will receive funding amounting to P1.9 billion, Lacson said.
Andaya is the first district representative of Camarines Sur.
- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News