Proposed 2020 national budget bill withdrawn from House

Xianne Arcangel, CNN Philippines

The bill for the proposed ₱4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 has been withdrawn from the House of Representatives, despite the Appropriations committee’s ongoing deliberations.

Appropriations committee chair and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab told CNN Philippines Sunday that Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte had House Bill 4228 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2020 withdrawn during the plenary session on August 28.

Ungab said he had asked the Appropriations committee secretariat to file the bill for first reading in the plenary.

He said he was unaware why Villafuerte withdrew the bill.

“I do not have personal knowledge on the act of withdrawal on the floor and upon whose orders this was made,” Ungab said.

Villafuerte said in a statement that he moved to withdraw the GAB because Ungab allegedly filed it prematurely. He said this goes against the House leadership’s vow to tackle priority measures in a timely and transparent manner.

“The remaining offices that have yet to present their 2020 budget proposals are expected to finish doing so by the end of this workweek yet — so how can the House appropriations committee submit HB 4228 without having heard the presentations of all government agencies covered by the proposed 2020 GAA (General Appropriations Act)?” he said.

He explained that he moved for the budget bill’s withdrawal since House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was unaware that he was made a co-author of the fiscal plan.

He explained that he moved for the budget bill’s withdrawal since House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was unaware that he was made a co-author of the fiscal plan.

Villafuerte said the House has until October to discuss the national budget, so there is no need to rush deliberations on it.

He also repeats the assertion of other House leaders that there are no congressional insertions in the proposed budget since the GAB is not yet in the plenary.

A source told CNN Philippines that Ungab is against the bill’s withdrawal.

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Joey Salceda said hearings on the budget will continue, however he added, “the significant implication is we can’t go to the floor without the GAB referred to committee, approved by committee and passed thru Rules committee.”

He said they “will just work harder” to meet the October 4 deadline.

According to the House of Representativs’ website, the General Appropriations Bill is pending with the Committee on Rules, after being initially referred to the Appropriations Committee.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted the 2020 National Expenditure Program to Congress on August 20.

According to a briefer on the budgeting process on the DBM website, the House appropriations committee should hold hearings first on the budget proposals of various government agencies before the proposed national budget is referred to the plenary as the GAB.

Based on the House’s initial timeline, the appropriations committee should wrap up its hearings on September 6.

House leaders want the plenary debates on the GAB to start on September 12, so it can be approved on third and final reading on October 4.

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