House tackles budget as whole committee

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THE HOUSE of Representatives on Tuesday constituted itself as the Committee of the Whole House to push through with the stalled budget deliberation beginning with fund realignments.

“Today, Madame Speaker, we fulfill our constitutional duty of debating the national budget,” said Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. after he motioned at the plenary to constitute the Committee to consider House Bill 8169, Fiscal Year 2019 General Appropriations Act.

The plenary debate on the budget was scheduled on Monday, but was delayed following conflict among House Leaders about a separate committee report, which Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Alexei B. Nograles claimed he was being asked to sign.

“There are also unforeseen events when the budget is being discussed here in the House which prompt alteration because a budget (is) not tablets from Mount Sinai whose contents are chiseled in stone,” Mr. Andaya also said.

He cited these unforeseen events may be in the form of a typhoon or changes in policies in relation with legislation in Congress.

“There are also man-made developments, some of the policy kind, which warrant a coping mechanism through the budget,” he added. “If we are about to enter into a rice tariffication regime, then we should not buttress the defenses of our local growers before it takes effect, not after.”

The Committee on the Whole also moved to realign P51.792 billion from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways to other government offices.

Of this share, a total of P31.592 million will be allocated to DPWH’s construction of access roads to tourism destinations, trades, industries and economic zones, as well as the construction of roads and bridges for traffic decongestion.

Moreover, P6 million was realigned to the Department of Health; P5 million to the capital outlays of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management; P5 million to the Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-Market Roads; P3 million to the Department of Education’s Construction of Tech-Voc Laboratories and P1.2 million to capital outlays of state universities and colleges. — Charmaine A. Tadalan