Palace confident Congress will pass 2018 budget


MALACANANG is confident that a new budget will be passed this year despite the differences in the versions of the proposed budget of both chambers of the Congress.

In a press conference, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said Malacañang
believed that both houses of Congress would be able to iron out their differences so the government would not have a reenacted budget for 2018.

“I can’t comment on a purely speculative matter. I cannot believe that the House and the Senate cannot agree on next year’s budget,” Roque said when asked about the possibility of a reenacted 2018 national budget.

“I have all the confidence, the Palace has all the confidence that we will have the budget pursuant to the request made by the Palace because this budget is crucial to the ‘Build, build, build’ program of the government intended to alleviate poverty in this country,” he added.

There were at least two issues that the bicameral conference committee or the Senate and House panels disagreed on.

These were the Senate’s move to cut P50.7 billion from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for right-of-way  acquisitions, and the Senate’s realignment of the Philippine National Police’s P900-million drug campaign budget and the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s P500 million for its own drug program, to housing for policemen and soldiers.

This came to a boil on Friday as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House would take the hard line and insist on certain allotments in the House version of the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2018.

Alvarez’s warning to the Senate raised the possibility of a reenacted budget, casting a pall on bicameral discussions on the tabled P3.767 trillion appropriations. Last year’s budget amounted to P3.35 trillion.

Both chambers must pass the budget before the end of year. Failing so, the current budget will be reenacted.

A reenacted budget has historically given the sitting President wider latitude to spend funds appropriated in the current year, automatically appearing as savings.

The last day of session of Congress for 2017 is on December 13. CATHERINE S. VALENTE


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