Senate OKs bill extending validity of 2019 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2019   •   693

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to extend the validity of the 2019 national budget until next year.

Nineteen of the senators present in the hearing voted to approve House Bill No. 5437 which would allow agencies to spend until December 2020 the funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlays in the 2019 national budget.

The bill amends Section 65 of Republic Act 11260 or the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the Finance committee, said the measure’s approval will greatly help all government agencies involved in relief efforts such as the recent series of earthquakes in Mindanao.

He added that the bill will also ensure the availability of over P12 billion from the Calamity Fund and other quick response funds lodged with various agencies.

“Through this measure, we would be extending a big helping hand to the Executive Branch which has had to operate during the first few months of this year on a re-enacted budget and the rest under pressure to spend up to P3.687 trillion of total available appropriations in a span of seven to eight months approximately amidst the election ban on government projects this year,” Angara said in a statement.

“We do this because under RA 11260 or the 2019 GAA and Executive Order No. 91 on the implementation of a cash-budgeting system, all appropriations that were not released, obligated or paid by the Dec. 31, 2019 shall lapse and revert to the national treasury,” he added.

It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte signed in April the P3.7-trillion national budget with vetoed provisions following alleged insertions in the bill, which led to its impasse and forced the government to operate on a reenacted 2018 budget.

“The Senate is not oblivious to the travails of the Executive Branch and we must help them. We must see to it that the national budget we approved for 2019 would benefit our people in terms of better services and more efficient public spending,” said Angara.

Sotto sees 2021 National Budget ready before the year ends

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III is confident that the 2021 National Budget will be ready for the signing of President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year.

Sotto thanked House Speaker Allan Velasco for submitting the proposed budget earlier than the expected of October 28.

This will give the Senate subcommittees time to complete their reports before they submit to the Senate Committee on Finance.

On November 10, Senator Sonny Angara is expected to sponsor the bill to the plenary.

Senators will then bring the budget bill under a period of interpellations from November 11 to 17 followed by the period of amendments on November 24.

Sotto expects that there will be no problems in the bicameral conference and the bicam report will be approved by December 8.

The Senate expects the President to sign the bill on December 25.

“We still have to work overtime,” Sotto said, considering the number of agencies and sub agencies that they have to deliberate on.

“We will probably end up everyday around 12 midnight or 1:00 AM para lang matapos namin ang [just to finish the] period of interpellations by the 17th,” he added.

One agency that they intend to scrutinize well is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHW) particularly the issue on alleged lump sums and and big budget allocations to selected local government projects.

He stressed that deliberations will not be affected even if Senator Cynthia Villar has to face her son DPWH Secretary Mark Villar in the deliberations.

“We will not soft-pedal on DPWH. Knowing Cynthia (Villar), hinahayaan lang naman niya [she just let everything flow]. I’ve seen it in the past. Ang daming interpellations sa DPWH hindi naman siya nang-aawat [Many times DPWH entered into interpellations she never interrupted]. It’s alright,” he said. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

House to transmit 2021 budget to Senate ahead of Oct. 28 deadline – Velasco

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to transmit to the Senate its version of the P4.506-trillion proposed 2021 national budget, a day before the promised date of Oct. 28, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Tuesday.

Velasco earlier said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed on the date as the deadline of transmission.

The House speaker said the record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We increased the allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by more than three-fold to cover more Filipinos. We also provided extra allocation for the facilities enhancement program of the Department of Health to help improve the country’s health care system,” Velasco said in a statement.

“The House-approved version of the budget also has additional funding for the Department of Labor and Employment to aid workers displaced by COVID-19 and for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for another round of financial assistance to families affected by the pandemic,” he added.

The lower chamber passed the budget bill on third and final reading last Oct. 17 after it was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The bill was approved a few days after Velasco was elected to the House’s top post following the removal of Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

Senate OKs bill granting President special powers vs red-tape

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant the President the authority to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications during national emergency.

Voting 23-0 on Wednesday, senators approved Senate Bill 1844 which grants power to the president to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses, and certifications, and to streamline and speed up the process for the issuance of such documents.

The measure was passed shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

The bill covers all agencies of the executive branch, including departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils; government instrumentalities, government owned and controlled corporations and local government units.

Under the measure, the President shall have the authority to accelerate and streamline regulatory processes and procedures for new and pending applications and renewals of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations, including fixing or shortening the periods provided for under existing laws, regulations, issuances and ordinances.

It also authorizes the President to suspend or waive the requirements in securing such permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations.

In consultation with or upon recommendation of affected government agencies, the President may also prescribe to be permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, and the suspension or waiver of the requirements in securing permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications or authorizations.

The proposal likewise reiterates the power of the chief executive given by the Constitution to remove or suspend any government official or employee as provided under the measure.

The bill, however, provides that the authority to be granted to the President “shall not be used to undermine the existing procedures and processes, under applicable laws, rules, and regulations, meant to protect the environment, especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally critical areas.”

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who sponsored the bill, said the measure was made under the same principle as that of the Bayanihan 2 provisions to extend the President’s authority beyond the current pandemic and any national emergency that the country might face in the future.

He said the measure could ease the already heavy burden of the businesses that were heavily hit and continuously being beaten by the gargantuan effects of the pandemic.

“This is a good accompanying measure to the ease of doing business. I think a lot of good will come out of this and I believe that with this, the President will be emboldened to remove more people for their ineptitude and incompetence,” he said in a statement.

The bill was authored by Zubiri, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

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