MANILA - The Philippines' economic growth may slow down this year should President Rodrigo Duterte veto the entire 2019 national budget, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said on Friday, raising concerns about having a reenacted budget.
The country's gross domestic product (GDP) may dip by P94.25 billion, slowing down growth to 5.6 percent from the original 6.7 percent forecast, Gatchalian said in a statement.
"Infrastructure projects, particularly those that are slated to start this year, will be put on hold," he said.
"Social safety programs like the Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) given to poorest of poor Filipinos will be adversely affected as well,” he said.
The country has been running on a reenacted budget since January 2019 after lawmakers feuded over alleged budget insertions in the 2019 spending bill.
Duterte said he would veto the P3.75-trillion budget should he find irregularities in the measure approved by Congress.
Several senators said the chamber must respect the president's constitutional right to veto a budget.
"To veto the entire budget is a prerogative and power of the President under the constitution if he is of the opinion that the budget bill is unconstitutional, or does not support his program of government," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.
"That is how our system is outlined in the Constitution--the President has the final say,” he said.
"That's the President's prerogative and we will respect whatever his decision will be," Senate Finance chair Loren Legarda said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would back Duterte's possible budget veto, noting that he suggested the move after signing the measure with "very strong reservations."
Some opposition senatorial candidates, who were former House members, flagged the possible move, warning that it could lead to abuse.
A reenacted budget enables the executive department to have full control on where to allocate taxpayer's money.
"Kung hindi nakatali ang kamay niya sa pag gamit ng pondo ay mas magagamit niya ito para paboran 'yung mga kandidato ng administrasyon," former House deputy speaker and Otso Diretso senatorial bet Erin Tañada said.
"Puwedeng magkaroon talaga diyan ng palakasan kung saan nanalo ang administrasyon, 'yun ang budget na ibubuhos sa distritong 'yan at 'yung natalo, 'yan ang iwi-withhold,” Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares said.
Duterte should just veto line items and not the entire budget, the former Bayan Muna Party-list representative said.
Regardless of whether the country will have a regular or a reenacted budget, Senator Panfilo Lacson said it must be rid of discretionary funds for lawmakers.
"It is tiring and frustrating, but I am always ready and able to fight another day for my career-long advocacy as an elected senator of the Republic -- that of fighting corruption particularly in the authorization phase of the budgeting process," he said. - with reports from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News