Arroyo defends 2019 budget in last Congress plenary

By CNN Philippines Staff

Up until the last plenary day for the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives continues to push for its version of the 2019 budget.

“Despite great difficulties, Congress came up with an enacted budget, avoiding the large problems that a reenactment of the last budget would have created. I congratulate those who worked tirelessly to bring the 2019 budget to fruition. I thank the President for respecting the mandate of both the House and the Senate to participate fully in the process,” House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a farewell speech delivered at the plenary Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 2019 budget in April, more than three months after the fiscal year, with the government running on a reenacted 2018 budget. However, he rejected P95.3 billion of the P3.757 trillion budget, meant for infrastructure projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways.

“Since the President vetoed a part of the proposed budget, in behalf of the members of the House, we have submitted to the Department of Public Works and Highways a list of the projects that the legislators would like to be implemented within the year,” Arroyo added.

One of the reasons for the budget delay was an impasse between the Senate and the House of Representatives, with members of the former accusing members of the latter of illegal insertions, particularly in the budget of the DPWH.

Members of the House brass, particularly Appropriations Committee Chair Rolando Andaya, insisted that the insertion of project specifications after the bicameral conference committee report was approved were legal.

Arroyo, in her farewell speech, said that the DPWH will have to check if the vetoed projects could still be implemented.

“Our understanding is that the DPWH will check the projects that can be accommodated within its continuing appropriations or savings, subject to the department’s evaluation if they are implementation-ready,” she said.

Despite this, she said that she had supported Duterte and his legislative agenda.

“The 880 measures we approved include all the bills highlighted by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 2018 State of the Nation Address. For early on, I defined our principal objective in no uncertain terms as to push for the legislative agenda of President Duterte. Our House focused on the passage of priority bills, especially those he highlighted in his 2018 State of the Nation Address,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo unseated former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on the very day of the 2018 SONA

She was President from 2001 to 2010. The government ran on reenacted budgets for three years during her term, in 2001, 2004 and 2006.

Appropriations Committee Chair Rolando Andaya was Arroyo’s Budget Secretary in 2006.

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