Lacson exposes alleged last minute ‘pork insertions’ in the 2020 National Budget

Marje Pelayo   •   December 12, 2019   •   561

MANILA, Philippines – The Bicameral Conference Committee finally has approved the P4.1T proposed national budget for next year.

However, Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed some last-minute ‘pork insertions’ in the proposed budget, the reason why he skipped the signing of the bicameral conference report on Wednesday night (December 12).

Lacson said he was sent a USB drive that contained the source files and the list files.

Based on their assessment, the source file contains 1,253 budget items amounting to more than P83-B.

Another file includes projects of congressmen amounting to P16-B that was inserted in the Bicam report.

The Lower House has yet to explain the two files.

It is, therefore, not clear if the total insertion was P83-B or P16-B.

Based on Lacson’s initial list, the provinces that obtained the largest allocations include Albay, Cavite, Sorsogon, Batangas, Bulacan, Pangasinan, and Cebu.

These were apart from the 117 flood control projects amounting to more than P3-B that was more suspicious.

Lacson expects President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the said questionable line items in the national budget.

Senator Vicente Sotto III said he will clarify with Senator Lacson the details of his discovery and to assess whether or not to elevate the issue to the President.

“Ang mangyayari sa atin ngayon niyan, in order not to delay the budget, we will just inform the Executive department. That’s the assessment of the Senate,” Sotto concluded. – MNP (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

DOF: Gov’t spent P352-B for COVID-19 efforts

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 24, 2020

The Department of Finance (DOF) reported that the government has so far spent P352 billion out of the P397 billion budget to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to DOF Secretary Sonny Dominguez, the government still has “sufficient” cash. However, it cannot be used for the COVID-19 response alone.

“Sufficient po ang cash natin pero naiipit na po tayo sa budget allowance natin. Iyan po ang problema natin ngayon, may cash tayo pero wala tayong authority na gumastos nang ganoon kalaki (Our cash is sufficient, but our budget allowance limits us. That is our current problem, we have the cash, but we don’t have the authority to spend that much),” he said.

Dominguez also reported a decline in tax collection due to the COVID-19 situation. He added that the government has already used the budget collected from these taxes.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved around P76 billion loan to the Philippines as additional budget for the country’s response against the COVID-19 virus.

President Rodrigo Duterte also announced the government might temporarily suspend several Build Build Build projects to allocate it for the COVID-19 response budget.

“Tanggalan ko iyan ng mga proyekto dito sa highways. Sabihin ko kay Tugade, huwag na muna iyan para makapag-ipon (I will remove projects in highways. I will tell Tugade not to continue the projects to collect [COVID-19] funds),” he said. –AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte to sign 2020 nat’l budget on January 6, Palace confirms

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 3, 2020

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech during his visit to the earthquake victims at the M’lang National High School in Cotabato on December 30, 2019. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Malacañang has confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget on Monday (January 6).

Presidential Legislative Liason Office Secretary Adelino Sitoy said there will be a presidential ceremonial signing at the Malacañang Palace on Monday.

However, Sitoy did not confirm if the president will veto provisions in the said budget.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the president did not mention about a possible veto.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has finished the review of the General Appropriations Bill last week.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Bicam approves proposed add’l taxes on cigarettes, salty foods, alcohol, vapor products

Maris Federez   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines— The two chambers of Congress have agreed on the final version of the Sin Tax Law.

The Bicameral Conference Committee on Wednesday (Dec. 18) approved the bill that proposes an additional tax on cigarettes, salty foods, alcohol and vapor products.

The bill provides for the application of the additional tax on fermented products from Php 35 in 2020 to Php 43 by the year 2024, while distilled products will be imposed with P35 to 66 taxes, wines with added Php 50 tax, and heated tobacco with additional Php 25 in the coming year.

The bicam has also approved the provision that prevents selling to vape products to buyers who are 21 years old and below.

“Kung ikaw ay hindi pa 21, definitely hindi pwede, tatanungin ka pa, nagyoyosi ka ba, kapag hindi ka nagyoyosi hindi ka pwede,” said House Committee on Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Joey Salceda.

This measure seeks to collect Php 24.9-Million taxes, and such will be used in the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act.

“I think all the health advocates sana mas mataas pa as a revenue measure, I had also hope na mas mataas,” Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair Pia Cayetano added.

The approved bill also provided for a clearer rule on VAT exemptions on medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

And by 2023, medicines for mental health, cancer, and tuberculosis will also be VAT-exempt. — (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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