By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras, September 19 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Philippine Star

REPRESENTATIVE Isidro T. Ungab of Davao City’s third district, who chairs the House Appropriations committee, said the P4.1-trillion budget bill for 2020 could be approved on third reading by Friday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte certified as urgent House Bill 4228 or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in a Sept. 17 letter to Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III.

“Given the certification, the P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 may be passed on the same day without waiting for separate days to have it approved on 2nd and 3rd readings. Thus, it is possible that the GAB will be passed on Friday, since it was certified as urgent,” Mr. Ungab said in a phone message to BusinessWorld on Thursday.

In his letter, Mr. Duterte said that the swift passage of the national budget will “address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year, to expedite the funding of various programs, projects, and activities for FY 2020.”

The passage of the national budget will also ensure “budgetary preparedness that will enable the government to effectively perform its Constitutional mandate.”

Rep. Jose Ma. S. Salceda, the House Ways and Means committee chair from Albay’s 2nd district, said the GAB faithfully adheres to the National Expenditure Program drawn up by the executive branch.

“Since GAB is 100% NEP, the Pres[ident] certified it. So we can approve budget tomorrow on 3rd (reading),” Mr. Salceda said in a message to reporters.

He added, “This is the first time for Pres[ident] Duterte in four budgets to provide a presidential certification.”

Rep. Martin G. Romualdez, the Majority Leader from Leyte’s first district, said: “We, in Congress, support the initiatives of the Duterte administration to empower the poor through increased subsidies and grants aimed at ending the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the country.”

The hearings on the 2020 budget ended on Sept. 6, with plenary debate ongoing.

The budget was originally planned for passage on second reading on Friday, Sept. 20 and third reading on Oct. 4.

Last year’s budget was delayed because of alleged “insertions” and the resulting disputes about changes to the spending program. President Rodrigo R. Duterte eventually vetoed more than P95 billion worth of spending items after signing the measure in mid-April. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras