MANILA -- It is up to the House of Representatives to break a deadlock in the approval of the 2019 national budget, Senate President Tito Sotto said Wednesday.
Sotto last week claimed that the House realigned P79 billion in the ratified 2019 budget, while Sen. Panfilo Lacson claimed that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo realigned P25 billion to favor certain lawmakers, which she denied.
In a meeting facilitated by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night, Lacson suggested that the House take back the changes it made on the ratified budget and leave the itemization of projects to Duterte, said Sotto.
House leaders appeared open to the suggestion, but "we have to wait and see," he told radio DZMM.
But Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who chairs the House appropriations committee, expressed reservation that allowing the President to itemize projects that may be covered by lump sum appropriations would be "unconstitutional," said House Leader Fredenil Castro in a statement.
Castro also surmised that the President would not want to interfere with budget allocations.
"Si Presidente Duterte, masyado naman maingat iyan at talagang observation natin, ayaw niyang makialam basta mga appropriation, allocation at mga pera," he told DZMM.
(President Duterte is too cautious and we've observed that he does not want to meddle with appropriations, allocation and money.)
Duterte, he claimed, also told lawmakers to resolve the budget impasse in "any manner that you are most comfortable with."
The government is currently running on a reenacted budget.
If the national outlay impasse is not resolved, the new Congress in August may just pass a supplemental budget, said Sotto.
The government may miss its 7-percent target gross domestic product by 2.5 percent if lawmakers fail to pass the national budget, he added, citing a warning from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.