By Bernadette D. Nicolas, April 12 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MALACAÑANG has now raised the possibility that the 2019 budget may not be signed by President Duterte on April 15.

This, a day after it confirmed in a statement that the ceremonial signing event of the 2019 General Appropriations Act is “calendared” on Monday at the Palace.

“Because it was calendared then it was removed from the calendar…but it could be reinstated right? Everything in the President’s schedule is subject to change without prior notice,” said Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo.

In yet another hint of the tentativeness of the signing, Panelo said the President might sign the budget after Holy Week since the budget is still being scrutinized.

Nonetheless, everybody is still waiting whether the President will veto the alleged post-ratification changes on the budget bill, which the Senate had called illegal and unconstitutional. Malacañang has since vowed that the President will review the budget thoroughly and not sign it if it is unconstitutional.

The government is still operating under the reenacted 2018 budget for the meantime that the 2019 budget is still up for the 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 the 2019 budget was delayed for 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 revise 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.