By Jefferson Antiporda, August 14 2018; The Manila Times
Image Credit to Youtube/Senate
Following the cue of the House, the Senate temporarily suspended all budget hearings for Tuesday pending the outcome of the meeting between the heads of the finance and appropriations committees of both chambers of Congress and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
This was the decision reached on Monday during the caucus of the Senate majority bloc following the move by the House to suspend deliberations on the P3.757 proposed national budget for 2019.
The House decision stemmed from the opposition of lawmakers to the proposed cash-based budget system of the DBM, which involves budget cuts in a number of line agencies.
In an interview after the caucus, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said there would be a meeting on Tuesday between Sen. Loren Legarda of the finance committee, Rep. Karlo Nograles of the House appropriations committee and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
“We’ll have to wait for the announcement of the committee on finance chair after the meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon,” Zubiri told reporters.
Diokno has maintained that the DBM won’t revert to an obligations-based budget wherein agencies can keep their obligated budget for another year until the project is finished.
Under the cash-based system proposed by the DBM, agencies must spend their budgets within the year, or lose the money.
According to the Senate majority leader, the majority bloc will adhere to the plan of the House to postpone budget hearings, noting that the 1987 Constitution states that the budget bill emanates from the House.
Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, in a separate interview, said the move to temporarily postpone budget hearings was the consensus reached by 17 senators who were present in the meeting.
“As agreed by everyone we follow the Constitution…the appropriations measure should come from the House,” he said.
On Monday, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said members of the House would meet with President Rodrigo Duterte and his economic managers to address the uncertainties brought about by the proposed cash-based budget.
“There is no impasse here. We just called for a break [in budget deliberations here in the House]so we can get audience with the President. It will be as soon as possible because we need a clear signal here,” Andaya said.
He clarified that the House was not deliberately trying to reenact this year’s budget for next year, a mechanism provided under the Constitution in case no budget is passed, to avoid a government shutdown.
“We are not working towards a reenacted budget. We are avoiding it like leptospirosis. We are just trying to understand how can the DBM submit to us a budget which even the implementing agencies are at a loss on what the future holds for them under such cash-based set up,” Andaya stressed.
He noted that the cash-based budget included funding for projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways that have been finished.
House appropriations panel chairman Karlo Nograles of Davao City presented figures on drastic budget cuts in flood control projects, which he said could worsen flooding.
With Reports from LLANESCA T. PANTI, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO AND RALPH U. VILLANUEVA