The Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed PHP3.757-trillion 2019 national budget or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) yesterday.
The 2019 GAB was approved with 14 affirmative votes, no negative vote, and zero abstention. The third reading approval came two months after the House approved the bill on third reading on November 20.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s certification paved the way for the Senate to pass the spending bill on both the second and third reading within the same day.
Among the notable amendments of the upper chamber is the reduction in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) due to the cut in the right-of-way (ROW) allocations and various projects, which are not part of the agency’s original budget proposal submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the cut will be partially offset by the increase in local projects.
Another amendment is the restoration of part of the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Health for the development of its health facilities and human resources. This includes PHP16.796 billion for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) and PHP4.787 billion for the human resources for health development.
The government has been operating under a reenacted budget since January 1 this year after Congress failed to pass the 2019 national budget on time due to allegations of “pork” insertions.
The center of controversy is the PHP75 billion worth of additional funds allegedly “inserted” by the DBM into the DPWH budget.
The Senate moved for the deletion of the questionable PHP75-billion “insertion” from the budget of the public works department upon the motion of Senator Panfilo Lacson.*PNA
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