To focus on the speedy passage of the P14.6 billion supplemental budget for calamity victims, the congressional leaders have agreed to move the bicameral conference for the 2014 national budget to next week.
Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said it was the House who requested that the bicam conference be moved to December 9 to give them time to pass the proposed supplemental budget under House Bill 3423.
The additional budget will be sourced from the unused 2013 Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Senate has its own version of the supplemental budget which it was about to introduce before the plenary after the finance committee approved Senate Bill No. 1938 appropriating P14.6 billion supplemental budget.
Escudero said the committee will be introducing its approved supplemental budget in the plenary once the House passes its version on final reading and transmit it to the Senate.
“The re-aligned utilization of the P14.6 billion supplemental fund will be used principally to augment two items in the 2013 budget, namely the quick response funds (QRF) of various agencies and the President’s calamity fund,” he added.
Despite of the week’s delay, Senate President Franklin Drilon is confident the House and Senate will resolve the differences in their versions of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill
“I’m not worried that there will be a deadlock. I have gone through this numerous times in the past. There can be difficulties sometimes, but at the end of the day, reasonable people can come up with an agreement that is acceptable not only to both chambers but also to the Filipino public in general,” said Drilon.
The Senate has introduced several amendments in the General Appropriations Bill submitted by the House, trimming it from P2.268-trillion to P2.265-trillion.
The difference represents the P3.2 billion PDAF of 15 senators and Vice President Jejomar Binay who insisted that their allocation be deleted from the budget.
The Senate also allotted P100 billion for the reconstruction program in areas devastated by several typhoons, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Visayas region and the siege in Zamboanga City, Drilon said.
The Senate version realigned P2.5 billion from the P5 billion lump-sum appropriation for scholarships to the budget of 112 state colleges and universities. The Senate also raised the budget of the University of the Philippines by P438 million.