Annual budget-A A +A
Thursday, December 12, 2013
FOR the first time in memory, the bicameral conference committee of Congress that was supposed to reconcile the budgetary versions of both the Senate and the House was held in transparency.
Approved the other day was the P2.264 trillion national budget in a meeting done before public observers who desired to see their lawmakers discuss how to spend the people’s hard-earned tax money. The 2014 budget as approved is less by P3.2 billion than the amount proposed by the House of Representatives.
The deducted amount represented the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of 15 senators who give up their pork barrel, as well as the P200 million discretionary fund that Vice President Jejomar Binay had requested to be “slashed” from his own budget.
The Supreme Court recently decided that having the PDAF violates the constitution.
The 2014 budget, which is up for signing by President Benigno Aquino III, includes a P20-billion fund to be given directly to all implementing agencies to ensure and hasten the rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by super typhoon Yplanda.
Another P5.5 billion will be entrusted to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for the calamity-hit areas in the country, while a P1 billion quick-response fund has been earmarked for the cash-transfer program.
An estimated 20,000 families have been deeply affected by the typhoon and are in great need of the conditional cash transfer program of the government.
The events that have overtaken the Philippines appear to have totally overhauled the national condition. The current situation, to my mind, may have granted a saving grace on the maligned PDAF.
The whole budget, though, is still subject to approval by the President. But it has to be soon since Congress is set to go on vacation in a few days.
“After the bicameral talks, the approved bills are returned to the Senate and the House...to be ratified by (both Houses) separately…Congress aims to transmit the proposed 2014 spending plan to the President on Dec. 23 for his signature and approval.
Both chambers of Congress earlier 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.
Congress will go on Christmas holiday recess starting on Dec. 21, just a little more than a week from today. And our legislators will come back to work almost a month after, or on Jan. 19, right smack into the Sinulog season.
But that’s a break for politics.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 12, 2013.