By Paolo Romero, March 26 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and House of Representatives moved a little closer yesterday to resolving their dispute over the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 and are looking at transmitting the spending authority to President Duterte before the end of the month.

Leaders of both chambers met yesterday at the Senate in another effort to end the impasse over the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) after their meeting with Duterte two weeks ago at Malacañang in an attempt to end their dispute.

Apparently, the two chambers came to an initial agreement as both sides suspended their talks until tonight to allow Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be consulted on a possible settlement so that the GAB can be signed into law.

“We just needed a place to explain to each other. They (senators) have a point, we have a point and the bottom line is we all want a new budget,” he said.

He said both sides “shared a few laughs” over a delicious lunch of chicken barbecue.

With Andaya were San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Leading the Senate side were Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the finance committee; and Senators Gregorio Honasan and Panfilo Lacson.

Lagman said there is light at the end of the tunnel as the objective of the Senate and the House was to transmit the proposed budget at the soonest possible time, without further delay.

Andaya and Lagman, however, did not give details on what was discussed over the three-hour meeting. Other lawmakers who were present declined to be interviewed.

Responding to queries from reporters, Lacson sent a text message saying there was “some progress” made at the meeting.

“We’re still working on it (breaking budget deadlock). We’ll meet again tomorrow (Tuesday). Hopefully we can follow through and finalize tomorrow,” Lacson said.

Duterte and his economic managers have repeatedly warned of the serious repercussions on the country’s growth if no new budget is passed and the 2018 budget is re-enacted.

The impasse stemmed from allegations from the Senate that the House made some realignments and amendments amounting to over P96 billion to the GAB after it was already ratified by Congress last month. – With Delon Porcalla