No to reenacted budget: Diokno tells Congress ‘duty first before leisure’
CLARK – Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno on Monday expressed confidence that Congress can still pass the proposed 2019 national budget and warned against a reenacted 2018 appropriations.
“We were expecting that with the change in [House] leadership, there will no longer be a problem. The last two budgets, we did not have any problem, right?” Diokno told reporters on the sidelines of Sulong Pilipinas 2018-Philippine Development Forum.
For his part, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III noted that Congress still have until the end of the year to pass the proposed first cash-based national budget of P3.757 trillion for 2019.
“They have until the end of the year, December 31st. They can work holidays, you know. In the US they work on Saturdays and Sundays. So as I’ve said, duty first before leisure,” Diokno said.
“Remember, for the last three years we submitted the budget on the day of the Sona [State of the Nation Address], [even as] the Constitution says 30 days after [Sona] just to give them time to work on the budget,” the Budget chief added.
Diokno was firm the Duterte administration will not operate under a reenacted budget even as he noted that House Speaker Gloria Arroyo, when she was president, had three of her nine years in office operating with reenacted appropriations.
The Budget chief said he already wrote Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo as well as Dominguez warning about the consequences of a reenacted 2018 budget.
“Having a reenacted (budget) does not mean the end of the world, but it has costly consequences on the economy and society. For one, it will stall the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, which at the moment is firing on all cylinders. This year, the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program has been a major contributor to economic growth and an overwhelming source of employment,” Diokno said in his letter.
“Next year, infrastructure and other capital outlays (are) huge, amounting to almost P1 trillion pesos. But with a reenacted budget, there is real risk that a big chunk of the infrastructure budget will be stalled, exacerbated by the election ban on new construction,” he added.
Diokno clarified that for the 75 major “game-changing” projects under “Build, Build, Build,” these “will not be disrupted because we have multiyear obligational authority [MYOA]—that’s the nature of the big projects.”
“But it’s the small projects that will suffer,” he said.
Also, “only the personal services (salaries, wages, pension and retirement, and the like) and the maintenance and other operating expenses are deemed reenacted, and only based on the 2018 level,” Diokno said.
As such, “salary adjustments for civilian and military personnel programmed for 2019 will have to wait,” the Budget chief said.
Diokno also warned that “capital spending proposed for 2019 will have to wait until the 2019 budget is passed and becomes effective.”
“There are some exceptions: foreign assisted projects covered by MYOA and those to be funded under the 2019 internal revenue allotment. The 2018 capital outlays cannot be reenacted because the assumption is that projects funded in 2018 cannot be done twice. All locally funded projects proposed in the 2019 general appropriations bill cannot be financed until after the President has approved the 2019 general appropriations act and after it has become effective,” he said.
“It is the responsibility of the House to scrutinize the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF), prepare and approve a general appropriations bill (GAB) based on the President’s budget. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the Senate to concur or propose amendments to the GAB as approved by the House. In the event of disagreeing provisions, the House and Senate may resolve their difference by forming a conference committee,” according to DIokno.
“This year, after a change in leaderships in the House, the wind has changed. There are now talks of a reenacted budget. Why? What happened? The President has done his job. He has submitted the BESF on the day of his Sona. The ball is in Congress’ court. It is the collective responsibility of legislators to approve the general appropriations bill before they go on a holiday break. Passing the GAB is the legislators’ first and foremost responsibility to the nation and to the Filipino people. Duty first before pleasure,” Diokno said. /kga
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