House eyes holding marathon 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   233

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.

“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.

The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

READ: House begins 2020 budget hearings

By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.

“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.

“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.

The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.

“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.

“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.

Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.

Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”

Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.

“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

House confident of passing 2020 budget bill on Oct. 4

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives remains confident it will be able to pass the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for the year 2020 on the targeted date of October 4.

The House plenary has been able to follow its schedule and completed deliberations on the proposed budgets of 39 government departments last week.

Among the government agencies with approved budgets were the Department of Finance, National Economic Development Authority and the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.

It also approved the 2020 budgets of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Optical Media Board, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Credit Information Corporation.

Also approved were the proposed budgets for next year of the Judiciary, Ombudsman, Philippine Center for Economic Development, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, Civil Service Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan; Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the Department of Justice.

The House also terminated deliberations on the appropriations for the Games and Amusements Board, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Racing Commission, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Competition Commission, Commission on Higher Education, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Labor and Employment, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Department of Foreign Affairs.

The number of agencies with approved budget proposals represents 54 percent of the total 72 government offices under House Bill 4228 or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) scheduled for plenary debates that is seen to be concluded on Friday, Sept. 20. 

“At the rate we’re going, the House is on track to finish the 2020 budget before the recess on Oct. 4,” Senior Deputy Majority Floor Leader and Cavite Representative Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a statement.

House leaders have earlier said they stick to the original target date to pass the proposed national budget before Congress goes on recess on the first week of October.

This is to avoid the scenario of another reenacted budget like what happened last year.

Apart from budget deliberations, the lower chamber also touted the passing of four priority measures at a record time, including the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA).

Remulla credited this to regular meetings of House members to thresh out concerns and ensure that floor discussions were mainly about the policy and expenditure programs of concerned agencies.

DepEd admits early pregnancy, lack of teachers remain a serious concern

Maris Federez   •   September 13, 2019

File photo of a public school teacher

The budget allocated for the Department of Education (DepEd) for the year 2020 is around P551-billion.

This is higher than the current department budget.

At Thursday’s Senate hearing on the proposed DepEd budget, as senators questioned the country’s quality of education, Secretary Leonor Briones admitted that the inadequate number of teachers remains a problem.

“Definitely size matters. The size of Finland, the size of Singapore, the size of the Philippines. 27 million learners, 900 thousand teachers,” Briones claimed.

The DepEd chief added that the department also considers early pregnancy as another serious problem.

“Ang instruction kasi ng President is: starting age 9, umpisahan na ang pagturo ng reproductive health [The president’s instruction was: starting age 9, we should start teaching reproductive health]. We’re taking it seriously and we are working closely with the Department of Health,” Briones said.

The Commission on Population report showed that the rate of teenage pregnancy in the country remains high, with close to 196,000 Filipinos age 15 to 19 getting pregnant every year.  (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

House plenary debates on 2020 budget bill to start on Sept. 10

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2019

Courtesy : HOR Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to begin this week the plenary debates on the proposed 2020 national budget.

House Committee on Appropriations chairman Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said the sponsorships and floor deliberations for the budget bill are scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 10 and are expected to last until Sept. 20.

Ungab said the lower chamber plans to stick to its original target date to pass the proposed national budget before Congress goes on recess on October 4.

The House appropriations panel earlier reported it has completed in record time the hearings on the 2020 budget proposals of all government agencies.

Previous House schedules showed that the annual budget hearings usually ended on the fourth week of September.

Ungab credited House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for helping the committee ensure the timely passage of the budget bill.

During the submission of the National Expenditure Program for Fiscal Year 2020 to Speaker Cayetano, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Chairman Ungab, and other House leaders, the Speaker assured the House will make adjustments in its plenary schedule to afford more time for the scrutiny and deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020.

“Under the effective guidance and leadership of Speaker Cayetano, everyone moved in accordance to his given task, and supported and coordinated with the leadership of the Committee on Appropriations which resulted in the early completion of the budget committee hearings last Friday, September 6. For that, I thank the Vice-Chairmen and members of the Committee on Appropriations for their hard work and sense of responsibility,” Ungab said in a news release.

He also thanked other lawmakers who helped in the study and review of the budget proposals to determine the necessity of their programs and projects.

Following the termination of the 2020 budget hearings, Ungab said the Committee on Appropriations is set to approve on Monday, September 9, the Committee Report on House Bill 4228 which seeks to appropriate funds for the operation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines from January 1 to December 31, 2020.

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