Palace: Duterte may sign 2019 national budget after Lenten break

Robie de Guzman   •   April 11, 2019   •   4355

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may sign the long-delayed 2019 national budget proposal after the Lenten break, Malacañang said on Thursday (April 11).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President is still reviewing the 2019 General Appropriations Act which was transmitted to his office late March.

“Kinalendar na pero pinag-aaralan niya [Duterte], baka after holy week,” Panelo said.

(It has been calendared already but he is still reviewing it. Maybe after Holy Week.)

Panelo’s statement came after Malacañang, on Wednesday, released the President’s tentative schedule of activities on April 15 which includes the signing of the P3.737-trillion budget.

The Palace official said the schedule was moved as the President is still reviewing the bill. It also remains unclear if Duterte vetoed any item on the budget proposal.

Panelo also made clear that the President’s schedule could still change anytime.

“Naka-calendar tapos tinanggal sa calendar, eh di pwede rin ibalik di ba? Lahat ng schedule niya [Duterte] subject to change without prior notice” he added.

(It was calendared but was later removed so we can still put it back right? His schedule is subject to change without prior notice.)

The approval of the budget was delayed for months due to an impasse between lawmakers over the alleged insertions and realignments made by the House of Representatives after the bill was ratified by both chambers of Congress.

The government has been running on a reenacted budget since January after the Congress failed to pass the proposed 2019 spending program on time.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III had signed a copy of the enrolled bill late March with “strong reservations,” maintaining that the P75-billion worth of projects under the local infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) funded through the “internal realignments” were “unconstitutional.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rolando Andaya, Jr. had slammed Sotto’s “unwarranted” move and accused the Senate of cutting down funds for infrastructure projects.

READ: Andaya hits Sotto’s “strong reservations” in signing 2019 budget bill

The administration’s economic advisers have earlier warned that if the government continues to operate on a reenacted budget, the country’s economic growth could slow to 4.2 to 4.9 percent from 6.2 percent in 2018. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson backs gov’t move to block release of P80-B congressional realignments

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday revealed that at least P80 billion in congressional realignments have been withheld by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

In a statement, Lacson said some lawmakers tried to realign at least P80 billion from the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program to their districts’ “pet projects” under the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget.

But instead of exercising his veto power over the line items which could stall the approval of the budget, the lawmaker said Duterte decided to just block the release of the budget by way of a DBM circular now called “for later release,” which has the same effect of a veto.

“I support the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management to withhold the release of these congressional realignments,” he said.

“This is one reason why I continue to support the leadership of President Duterte in spite of some disagreements with him over some policy issues: He has time and again displayed the strong political will, even against many self-proclaimed allies in Congress whose loyalty clearly lies where the money lies,” he added.

Lacson advised the president to “always be wary of these so-called allies” who have the propensity to praise him to high heavens and never criticize him but with self-aggrandizement and greed as their only motivation and nothing else.

The House of Representatives has yet to issue a comment on Lacson’s claim. – RRD (with details form Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Formal complaint necessary for gov’t to act on alleged ‘pastillas’ scheme in BI

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang vowed to take action on the reported anomaly inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the so-called ‘pastillas’ scheme.

But the Palace said, it could only act on the matter once a formal complaint is filed.

“Any violation, any transgression, any anomaly, the Palace frowns on it and will act on it, if there are complaints formally filed before its office,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Based on an expose by Senator Risa Hontiveros, BI personnel were allegedly taking bribes of up to P10,000 from Chinese nationals who wanted to enter and work in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.

Panelo said the Palace is expecting BI Commissioner Jaime Morente to spearhead the investigation and enforce the necessary actions on involved BI personnel.

“The Immigration commissioner is tasked to do his job. Meaning, apart from the usual governing of his own territory, he has to know if there is an anomaly in his territory and respond to it,” the Palace Spokesperson said.

Five immigration officials were already relieved following the Senate inquiry yesterday.

Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte would not hesitate on stopping POGO operations in the country if evidence of corruption is proven because that would definitely have a huge impact on the country’s economy.

“Di ba sabi nga ni Presidente, ‘there is no sacred cow in this government. If it’s against the interest of the people and general welfare, I’ll stop it.’ This is the kind of President we have,” Panelo said. — MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

It’s more fun in the Philippines: Duterte invites Filipinos to visit local tourism sites amid Covid-19 fears

Robie de Guzman   •   February 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has called on Filipinos to visit local tourism sites amid fears of international travel and restrictions due to the threat of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a taped message posted on social media, Duterte urged the public to help boost local tourism by visiting the country’s scenic spots and discovering other awe-inspiring hidden gem attractions.

“To my fellow Filipinos, I encourage you to travel with me around the Philippines. I assure you that everything is safe in our country, be it an issue of health, be it an issue of law and order and be it an issue of accessibility,” the President said.

“Come with me and be my travel companion. I’ll be traveling around the Philippines. Pasyal tayo dito sa atin. Unahin natin ‘yung atin. Mabuhay ang Pilipino. Mabuhay ang turismo ng Pilipinas,” he added.

The chief executive issued the call after the tourism sector reported at least P10 billion in revenue losses due to an entry ban on travelers to and from China, the country’s largest tourism market, after it was hit by coronavirus outbreak.

Duterte said local airline companies and hotel operators have agreed to offer discounted rates to counter the negative effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and to promote the country’s tourism sector to local tourists.

“Maraming magagandang mapuntahan sa Pilipinas, wala kayong dapat alalahanin,” he said.

The Philippines has imposed an entry ban on foreigners who travelled from China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus strain. It later expanded the ban’s coverage to include Taiwan.

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