Philippines: House begins plenary debate on 2019 budget

  • THE HOUSE of Representatives started plenary discussions on the 2019 budget on 19 Sep 18, with debate centered on the new cash-based budgeting system, which sets a use-it-or-lose-it procurement deadline of one year before funding authority expires.
  • The proposed 2019 budget, filed as House Bill No. 8169, is PHP3.767tr, slightly lower than the PHP3.767tr obligation-based budget for 2018.
  • If the 2018 budget is reckoned using the cash-based system, it will be worth PHP3.324tr, which means the 2019 proposed budget is higher if compared like-for-like.
  • The old obligation-based system allows for two years’ funding validity. The switch to a cash-based system was thought to accelerate spending and forcing the prioritization of projects that can be completed in the soonest possible time.
  • The House of Representatives has also argued that government agencies may not be able to adjust to the new scheme due to a public spending ban in 2019 ahead of the midterm elections.
  • The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) defended the budget cuts, saying that the agencies concerned had failed to use their funding even under the old two-year deadline.
  • The House and the DBM later compromised on a payment period for contracted services over a 15-month period, along with a three-month Extended Payment Period after the fiscal year.
  • Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. has said that the House can pass the budget on third and final reading by Oct 18.
  • The plenary debate on the budget was originally scheduled for 17 Sep 18, but was delayed to sort out differences in the committee report.
  • The Committee of the Whole moved to realign PHP52bn from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways to other government offices. Mr. Andaya also said that the amendments in the budget will be itemized transparently.
  • Meanwhile, Senators on 19 Sep 18 said they will move to block what they allege is pork barrel from the realigned PHP52bn in DPWH funds once the budget proposal is transmitted to the Senate.

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