THE House of Representative has until Tuesday next week to transmit its version of the proposed P22.467-billion supplemental budget for 2014 to the Senate so the measure could be passed before Congress goes on a break on December 18.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, told the Kapihan sa Senado news forum on Thursday that the Senate still has to take up the budget bill in plenary once it is transmitted by the House.
“If they [House] will transmit the approved supplemental budget by Wednesday next week, there will be no time for us to pass it,” Escudero said.
He added that he sees nothing wrong if the supplemental budget is not passed this year because the Senate can still deliberate on the measure once it resumes session on January 19.
The House appropriations committee on Tuesday approved the proposed supplemental budget and started plenary deliberations so it could be passed on final reading either by Friday or Monday next week.
Escudero said the reason why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is asking for an additional budget is that it needs to pay various government projects that have been awarded but have not been paid because of the Supreme Court’s declaration as unconstitutional portions of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
He added that the request of the executive branch for additional budget is far better than the DAP since it requires the approval of Congress.
House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares and Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list expressed concern that some of the allocations in the additional budget could end up as campaign funds for the 2016 elections.
Escudero said there is also no guarantee that the Senate would approve the entire P22.467 billion because there are some items that are likely to be cut, like the P715 million request of the Supreme Court for its Enterprise Information System Plan, which is already in the proposed 2015 national budget.
The House of Representatives is also looking to realign the allocation for the Supreme Court’s program in the supplemental budget.
As a result of such move, the House increased the allocation for the Emergency Shelter Assistance for victims of Typhoon Yolanda and the fund for the obligations arising from implemented infrastructure projects.
From P1.5 billion, the budget for the Emergency Shelter Assistance for Yolanda victims was raised to P2.16 billion and that for obligations arising from implemented infrastructure projects was increased to P1.9 billion from P1.8 billion.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the supplemental budget is riddled with double entries.
According to him, P903.8 million was allotted for implementation of the Treasury Single Account—an item which has a P516 million allocation under the proposed P2.606 trillion budget for 2015.
The supplemental budget also earmarked P11.2 million for the National Greening Program, even if there is P403.5 million allotted for the same program in the 2015 budget.
Allotment of P199 million was still made for procurement of firetrucks in the supplemental budget although P1billion has been set aside for it in 2015 proposed budget.
The supplemental budget provides P957 million for Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) rehabilitation and capacity extension, while the 2015 budget has set aside P4.5 billion for the same purpose.
“We believe Congress should exercise prudence in passing supplemental budgets, given the limited fiscal space that we have. A supplemental budget should be passed only for projects that are truly urgent, not just a mix and match of favored projects that already have prior funding in the regular national budget,” Ridon said.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI