MANILA - The House of Representatives will buckle up and finish budget deliberations latest by next week after the Speakership row is settled, a lawmaker allied with the sitting leader said Wednesday.
Legislators "will try our best to finish" by Friday in accordance with the special session called by President Rodrigo Duterte for the passage of the 2021 spending bill, but the Speaker may convene the House "to consider urgent legislative matters or concerns like this," said 1-Pacman Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero.
"We can still convene during recess…We will pass siguro the budget to the Senate on the third week of October. We have time to extend it," he told ANC's Headstart.
Lawmakers are set to deliberate on the budget of at least 15 more agencies from Wednesday. Debate period was reopened on Tuesday after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco was elected by a majority of his colleagues.
It follows a weeks-long tussle for the leadership post between Velasco and erstwhile Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. The two were supposed to share the Speakership for the 18th Congress under an agreement brokered by Duterte.
About a week after his offer to resign was rejected by the plenary, Cayetano sought to pass the 2021 budget on second reading on October 6 and suspended session, just before Velasco was supposed to take over the leadership.
Duterte certified the spending bill urgent and ordered House lawmakers to reconvene from October 13 to 16 to finish deliberations.
At the start of the session on Tuesday, 186 legislators, including Romero, ratified the election of Velasco as Speaker.
"We are back. The House of Representatives is back to work and as of today, we are one solid and unified Congress and we expect to give our help to the Filipino people," said Romero.
"Nandito na po kami, natapos na. Everything is over and everything is back to where it should be, back in business," he added.
The P4.5-trillion budget for 2021 includes funds for the coronavirus pandemic response. A delay in its passage may lead to a reenacted 2020 spending plan, which has no provisions to address the ongoing crisis.
The country has gone into recession this year, the first time in about 30 years, after the economy shrunk in the second quarter following months of strict lockdown.