By Bernadette D. Nicolas, April 11 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

PRESIDENT Duterte is scheduled to sign the 2019 budget on Monday (April 15) after its passage was stalled for about three months in the Legislative branch.

The ceremonial signing of 2019 General Appropriations Act is set to happen in Malacañang, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesman Salvador S. Panelo.

“The Palace confirms that the ceremonial signing of the General Appropriations Act 2019 has already been calendared on the President’s schedule on April 15,” Panelo said in a statement.

“This year’s national budget—our third under the Duterte administration—is a continuation of our narrative of genuine change and meaningful progress, among others, through our intensified infrastructure development programs, expanded policies on human development and poverty reduction,” he added.

However, it remains to be seen whether the President vetoed the alleged post-ratification changes on the budget bill, which the Senate said were illegal and unconstitutional.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles earlier said this week that the budget is still under vetting stage.

Malacañang has also since said that the President will review the budget bill thoroughly and sign it if it is constitutional.

Reenacted budget

The government is still operating under a reenacted budget for the meantime that the 2019 budget is still up for President’s signature and is yet to be effective.

It was only two weeks ago that Senate leaders agreed to withdraw their reservations on the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget that had left both chambers of Congress deadlocked for two weeks.

Although Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III inked the measure, he also informed the President through a letter transmitting the budget to the Palace  that he affixed his signature “with strong reservations,” adding that he was leaving it up to Malacañang to “consider disapproving the unconstitutional realignments, pursuant to his constitutional power to veto” particular items on the budget bill. Meanwhile, the House has since stood firm that the budget itemization implemented by the lower chamber was within the parameters of the bicameral committee report ratified by each chamber.

Aside from the alleged post-ratification changes made by the House leadership, the passage of 2019 budget was delayed due to a number of issues, the alleged P75-billion budget insertions to the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways by then-Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and the lawmakers’ opposition to the Department of Budget and Management’s move to undertake a “revolutionary shift” from obligation-based budgeting to cash-based budgeting system.

The budget impasse was also among the reasons which forced the government to revised downward its growth targets this year and in 2020.

During its 175th meeting, the Development Budget Coordination Committee scaled down the GDP growth target for the year to 6 to 7 percent, from the previous 7 to 8 percent. Economic growth next year is projected to reach 6.5 to 7.5 percent. The DBCC expects to hit the original growth target of 7 to 8 percent in 2021 and 2022.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) earlier said that a reenacted budget will delay new and ongoing infrastructure projects, as well as the implementation of public services such as Unconditional Cash Transfer and Pantawid Pasada Program.

Apart from the damage on the economy, the Neda also said the reenacted budget will cost as much as 180,000 to 240,000 more jobs, and fail to lift 400,000 to 550,000 more Filipinos out of poverty this year.