• Senate set to approve P3.35-T national budget

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    THE Senate expects to pass on third and final reading the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 next week, and have it signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in December, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said.

    The Senate concluded the period of interpellation on the proposed general appropriations act (GAA) last Tuesday, and could hold a vote on Monday.

    Once the 2017 budget bill secures the majority of votes in the Senate, a bicameral conference committee will be scheduled to reconcile the conflicting Senate and House versions.

    “There’s a lot of disagreeing provisions but not that contentious, and in the give-and-take of law making, it can be resolved,” Pimentel said in an interview.

    The 2017 GAA is 11.6 percent higher than the P3.002-trillion national budget this year. Forty percent or P1.345 trillion will be earmarked for social services such as education, culture, health, social security, housing, and land distribution.

    “We hope that by Monday it’s approved on its third and final reading. That’s the plan,” Pimentel said told reporters.

    While he admitted that the Senate was already a week behind schedule on the budget bill, Pimentel said there would be no problem in case the proposed 2017 budget won’t make it by the end of 2016.

    He said the government could still function on a reenacted budget while waiting for the enactment of the 2017 GAA.

    “When the year ends and there is no new budget law, the past year‘s budget is deemed re-enacted. But if the new law comes, that will take effect,” he explained.

    Pimentel said he would rather have the budget enacted later than hastily pass a bill containing questionable provisions.

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