SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel and Senate committee on finance chair Senator Loren Legarda vowed to fast-track the 2018 budget amounting to P3.676-trillion as they are hopeful to pass it into law before Christmas.
"By December 15 we are hopeful that the budget of 2018 will be passed into law," Pimentel said Monday.
Pimentel said they will focus first on plenary discussion, interpellation, and they will sit-down on the contentious parts of the budget and will conduct a special session on Thursday for two weeks and the possibility of a Friday session for this week, if needed, will also be considered.
"This Thursday we will finish the interpellation and submit written amendments during the break. When we get back in November, it will be amendment period already. So November session will be amendment plus approval and printing will be early December," Pimentel said.
"It's a reasonable timetable considering that previous budgets were not approved even in January. So the schedule is just right in time," Pimentel said.
Legarda, for her part, insisted the need for Congress to fast-track the passage of the proposed P3.676 trillion General Appropriation Bill of 2018.
Legarda who will sponsor the bill vowed to reach the target date by holding marathon sessions for at least two weeks.
The senator admitted that they cannot pass it by October 12 when Congress goes on recess but maintained that Congress will pass it on time.
Legarda said she already discussed with Pimentel the holding of a marathon session from Monday until Friday, which she said, is the only possible way for Congress to finish the budget on its target schedule.
Legarda admitted that it is not possible anymore to approve the budget on second and third reading before the break on October 12 considering that they have to tackle the issue point by point.
Legarda explained that the 2018 budget is both pro-environment and pro-people as she described it a humane budget that supports the Duterte administration’s so-called “Build, Build, Build program.”
"We are supporting the program of the Duterte administration in its aim to give protection and prioritize the dignity and needs of our poor countrymen," Legarda said.
The House of Representatives last week submitted to the Senate the budget measure, restoring the proposed budgets for the Commission on Human Rights, Energy Regulatory Commission, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
Upon resumption of session on November 13, the Senate is expected to approve the GAB on second and third reading.
Then, the bicameral conference committee will be convened to reconcile the differences in the Senate and House versions of the proposed budget for 2018. (SunStar Philippines)