• Legarda assures sufficient funds for 3 govt agencies, eyes 2018 budget okay before Oct break

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    SENATOR Loren Legarda assured the three agencies, which received P1,000 each for 2018 from the House of Representatives, that they would have sufficient funding for their operations and was hoping that the Senate could pass next year’s budget before lawmakers take a month-long break in October.

    “As far as we are concerned ito ay naipasa na pero magpupulong po ang dalawang kapulungan. Hindi naman maaaring umandar ang gobyerno na may ahensya na may 1k na budget,” said Legarda in an interview over radio dzBB on Sunday.

    (We already approved their budget, but the two chambers will have a caucus. Government agencies cannot function with only a P1,000 budget.)

    “I assure you that the agencies will have their budget,” said Legarda. “I am not sure if it is the exact budget maaaring tinataasan, maaring binabaan (It could be increased, it could be lowered). I can’t assure you that it will be up to the last centavo, but they will have their budget.”

    Legarda, head of the Senate finance committee, said that as far as her committee was concerned, the proposed budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) were approved.

    The panel approved the CHR proposed budget of P678 million, NCIP’s P1.1 billion allocation, and the ERC’s P351-million appropriation.

    The House, before approving the 2018 proposed budget on second reading, slashed the budgets of the CHR and NCIP and ERC to P1,000 each because of their supposed failure to perform their duties and corruption.

    It is expected to approve the P3.7 trillion proposed national budget on third and final reading this week.

    Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, in a separate interview, defended the move by the Senate to restore the ERC’s budget, noting that Congress should not punish the more than 400 employees just because there were a few corrupt officials in the agency.

    Gatchalian, chairman of the committee on economic affairs, said the government should go after and punish those who would be found guilty of corruption while ensuring the continuous operation of ERC, tasked to make sure that electricity rates imposed by power distribution firms like Manila Electric Company (Meralco) were correct.

    The finance committee chairman also expressed confidence that the two houses of Congress would be able to reconcile conflicting views in the proposed 2018 General Appropriations Act to avoid a deadlock.

    Legarda added that the move by the lower House to slash the budget of the three agencies was a political statement and could be resolved once the two chambers faced each other.

    President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent on Tuesday the proposed P3.7 trillion budget to ensure that the government would have funds for its projects and programs in 2018.

    Legarda, for her part, said the Senate was eyeing to pass the budget on or before October 11, or before going on a one-month recess.

    She admitted, however, that the chamber could only meet its target date if the House could transmit its approved 2018 budget by September 21.

    JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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