Lawmaker: No reenacted budget, congressional insertions to 2021 spending plan

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2020 10:31 PM

MANILA - Dispelling worries of a reenacted budget for 2021, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday said his colleagues would submit to the Senate next year's national spending plan on Nov. 2 without any congressional insertions.

ACT CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chair of the House panel, told reporters that since the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) has been certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, it will be approved on 3rd and final reading on Friday, accepting amendments only initiated by the executive branch.

In the past, lawmakers were allowed to propose changes during the period of amendments in the plenary, or through a small committee tasked to review proposed amendments before a bill is approved on final reading.

"Wala kaming pinapa-amend na hindi agency initiated, so no congressman can amend on their own or sa Congress lang. It should be done with the agencies so ang agency lang ang tatanggapin namin na amendments," Yap said.

He explained that lawmakers who want to make changes to the bill should have been required to submit amendments to the agencies concerned, so the agencies can vet them and submit them as agency-initiated amendments. 

But the deadline for agency-initiated amendments is Friday, October 16, according to Yap. 

“Wala mag-iinsert na congressman dito, this is purely agencies talaga. Agency mag-iinitiate ng mga changes, not congressman,” he said.

Senators said that if Yap and his group submit the budget proposal on Nov. 5, they may not have enough time to review and approve the bill before the year ends, which in turn would lead to a re-enacted budget. 

"Aabot kami Nov. 2, one week before. 'Yun naman ang sinabi, one week before they open, so I think we're right on track. November 2, we can do it. The earlier, the better," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday said he reached out to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to urge him to send the House-approved budget before November.

"I just talked to Speaker Velasco and I requested him to help facilitate the transmittal to us to the 28th of October at the most and that is 10 days after they pass it on 3rd reading," he told reporters in a text message.

"He (Velasco) promised best effort."

Yap said it would be impossible to submit a printed copy of the GAB immediately after it is approved by the House. He explained that encoding and printing takes 15 days, and said he has pointed this out with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Sonny Angara.

Last January, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued National Budget Circular 578, which among others withheld Congress-introduced programs and projects and considered them for later release. 

“Such items, including Congress-introduced programs and projects, listed in Schedule II hereof, are subject to specific conditions and require compliance with certain documentary requirements/approvals from other authorities," it said.