• House sees supplemental budget approved before Christmas break

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    The House of Representatives will pass a supplemental budget before the Christmas break to raise P55 billion for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, a House leader said Monday.

    Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, made the announcement on the day Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Aquino administration will earmark P55 billion for the typhoon rehabilitation fund.

    The amount will come from the unused funds in the 2013 national budget, the proposed P2.268 trillion national budget for 2014 and the P13.5 billion unspent 2013 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—a budget provision that was declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

    “We still have to talk about the details, but we should be able to pass it before the December break. We cannot pass a supplemental budget if the year is over. If the Senate President said we need P55 billion, I am sure he is in touch with the Executive and that would be a reliable figure,” Quimbo told reporters.

    “We will take action and the available fund will definitely include those which was set aside by the Supreme Court ruling. The government is not in the business of savings. The government’s business is to spend the taxpayers’ money for programs that will benefit its citizens,” Quimbo said.

    Congress will start its Christmas break on December 21. Malacañang has said it is already working on the supplemental budget together with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and other government agencies.

    Once the House receives the proposed supplemental budget from the Executive, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. can convene the plenary as a Committee of the Whole so that the Executive’s proposed supplemental budget will be directly subjected to plenary debates, but Quimbo doubts if such a move can speed up passage of the supplemental budget.

    “Within 10 days [from now]the Executive and the Legislative should be able to hammer out a decision. The Speaker has the power to convene the plenary into the Committee of the Whole but I can’t say it would be preferable since debates in the plenary tend to be more intensive when disagreements are not ironed out in the committee level,” Quimbo said.

    LLANESCA T. PANTI

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