MANILA – Even after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, the Senate and House of Representatives remained on stalemate on the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the conflict between the two chambers centered on Senate’s stand to pass the “ratified version” as against the House’s “on the line itemization and not lump sum.”
“The President had asked us to pass the budget so that the programs of government can continue…We still met while the President had left but there’s still no consensus unfortunately,” Zubiri said in a statement.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said the President has the intent to resolve the impasse but it is up to the House if they will follow the Chief Executive’s wish to pass the budget.
“After some words from both sides, Sen. Lacson suggested that the HOR recall the enrolled copy they sent and revert back to the bicam report that both houses approved,” Sotto said.
He added: “The President and members of the executive department concurred. HOR appeared to have acquiesced but we have yet to see if they will follow the agreement.”
Capiz 2nd District representative Fredenil Castro, the House Majority Leader, said they have reservations in retaining the lump sum appropriations in the bicameral conference-approved budget since it will be “unconstitutional.”
“There was a suggestion to finish the budget by retaining the lump sum appropriations in the bicameral report and just allow the President to itemize the projects which may be covered by the lump sum appropriations,” Castro said in a statement.
He added: “To this suggestion, Rep. Nonoy Andaya expressed reservation as this would be unconstitutional. Members of both chambers signified to the President that they will follow his suggestion so that in a few days’ time, the budget is finalized.”
Duterte called for a meeting on Tuesday night with both Senate and House chambers quarreling over the alleged changes made by the latter on the proposed budget after the bicameral conference committee approved its version.
The government is currently running on a reenacted budget after lawmakers failed to approve the P3.7-trillion expenditure plan before their Christmas break due to supposed insertions./PN