Bicam okays P2.26-T budget for 2014

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IN LESS than one hour, the bicameral conference on Tuesday approved the P2.264-trillion national budget for 2014, which was done with transparency as the meeting was made open to the public.

The proposed budget for 2014 will prioritize the P20-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for areas devastated by recent calamities, including super typhoon Yolanda, which severely hit the Eastern Visayas; typhoons Santi and Labuyo, the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Bohol and the armed conflict in Zamboanga City.

Last November, the Senate approved the proposed P2.268-trillion spending plan for 2014. The proposal is P3.2 billion lesser than the version passed in the House of Representatives.

The deduction represented allocation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given up by 15 senators as well as the P200-million discretionary fund that Vice President Jejomar Binay also requested that it be slashed from his own budget.

Recently, the Supreme Court declared PDAF or pork barrel as unconstitutional.

Senator Francis Escudero, Senate committee on finance chair, said the P20-billion rehabilitation fund will be given directly to all implementing agencies in order to make sure that rehabilitation and infrastructure needed for damaged areas will be implemented the soonest time.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund will get P5.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation of calamity-hit areas.

The reconciled 2014 budget proposal also include P1-billion quick response fund for the Department of Transportation and Communication and the additional P336-million cash grants for the government's conditional cash transfer to 20,000 families severely hit by Yolanda.

After the bicameral talks, the approved bills will be returned to the Senate and the House of Representatives to be ratified separately.

Congress aims to transmit the proposed 2014 spending plan to President Benigno Aquino III on December 23 for his signature and approval.

Congress will be on holiday recess from December 21 to January 19.

Earlier, both chambers sought the provision in the budget extending the validity of the Executive's spending power on accumulated saving from various department offices estimated to reach P21-billion, to augment the urgent relief and long term rehabilitation efforts of calamity-stricken areas.

Senators meanwhile commended the leadership of both chambers for agreeing to make public the bicameral conference meeting.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the decision to make the hearing open to everyone is a humble gesture of Congress to the Filipino people for transparency and accountability.

Angara described this move of the bicam as a historic and unprecedented decision for members of both House in the 16th Congress.

Senator Grace Poe said the public really deserve full access to bicameral conference proceeding and meetings.

Poe who is also the chairperson of the committee on public information and mass media said legislators should promote the constitutional principles of accountability, transparency and governance.

"A bicameral conference committee is the mechanism for compromising differences between the Senate and the House of Representatives in the passage of a bill into law and the public should be given full access to information on matters of public concern. That is what we call the Bill of Rights," Poe said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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