By Genalyn Kabiling, April 9 2019; Manila Bulletin

Image Credit to Manila Bulletin

President Duterte may sign into law the proposed 2019 national budget before the Holy Week but may include a veto message, according to a Palace official.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the imminent approval of the P3.7-trillion national budget would allow the government to catch up on infrastructure spending and prevent any slowdown of growth after weeks of operating on a reenacted budget.


At present, the budget proposal is under review by the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“Well sa pagkakaalam ko vinvet lang ngayon, pinagaaralan na [From what I know, it is being vetted, being reviewed] and we are hopeful that the President will sign the budget maybe this week or next week. Hopefully before the Holy Week maaring pirmahan ng Pangulo [the President can sign it],” Nograles said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.

Asked if the President would veto certain items in the proposed spending plan for the year, Nograles affirmed that a veto message may be forthcoming but could not reveal which provisions will be affected.

“Every year naman may veto message naman ang pangulo and that is part of the prerogative of the president na gumawa ng veto message dun sa panukalang pambansang budget, before he signs it kasama dyan yung pagvevet at pagfinalize ng veto message [Every year, the President has a veto message and that’s part of the prerogative of the President to write a veto message on the proposed national budget. Before he signs it, the veto message will be vetted and finalized],” he said.

“So ideally, by practice, historically, there is always a veto message ng pangulo pagdating sa budget [There’s a veto message from the President when it comes to the budget],” he said.

The proposed national budget was transmitted to the Palace late last month after weeks of impasse in Congress over controversial last-minute realignments by some lawmakers.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier signed the 2019 budget proposal last month but asked the President to exercise his veto power over alleged unconstitutional P75 billion worth of realignments.

The House-led changes were reportedly done after the bicameral conference committee had ratified the proposed budget.

Once the 2019 national budget is signed into law, Nograles expressed confidence the government could step up the investments on infrastructure development.

The government, however, would have to wait for the end of the election spending ban before it could proceed with the infrastructure projects, he added.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has enforced a ban on construction of public works from March 29 to May 12.

“Ideally ang gusto nating mangayri pag napirmahan na siya habulin natin kung ano yung mga infra projects na nasa 2019 [Ideally, we want that as soon as the budget is signed, we will catch up with the infrastructure projects in 2019],” Nograles said.

“May election ban pa tayo, so you will have to wait for the election ban to be lifted for you to start your infrastructure projects,” he added.

As a result of the delayed budget implementation, Nograles explained that the effectivity of the new national budget would go beyond December 2019 and may last until mid-2020.

“Dahil tatamaan tayo ng election ban then we might have to be constructing infra projects during the rainy season which is not ideal and magkakaroon ng mga delays ‘yan [because we will be hit by the election ban, then we might have to be constructing infrastructure projects during the rainy season which is not ideal and result in delays],”he said.

Since the 2019 national budget and the anticipated 2020 outlay will overlap, Nograles said there would be more infrastructure projects implemented next year.

“It will be good for the economy kasi mas marami kang makikita na mga infra projects that are coming in so sa job generation maganda rin yan pero sana hindi tayo mabulunan sa dami ng project,” he said.

He admitted that under a reenacted budget, the government could not implement capital outlay or infrastructure projects since it will follow the itemized listing of projects from the previous year.

“Obviously, you can’t cement a road that has already been cemented or build a bridge that has already been built,” he said.

“Tatamaan yung ekonomiya natin kasi wala kang infrastructure spending so ang first casualty mo dyan yung Build Build Build program ng ating gobyerno [The economy will be affected because you have no infrastructure spending so the first casualty is the Build, Build, Build program of the government],” he said.