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House OKs P3.757-T 2019 national budget on final reading

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the bill providing for the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

With 196 votes in the affirmative, eight in the negative, and zero abstentions, the chamber approved House Bill 8169, or the proposed 2019 General Appropriation Act, more than a month after they approved it on second reading on October 3.

The House's approval of the budget bill came amid calls from senators that the measure be transmitted to them already considering that there are only a few days left before Congress goes on a break on December 12.

The 2019 national budget is the first one to use the cash-based budgeting system.

Under this system, the proposed 2019 national budget only contains programs and projects that can be implemented within the year. Agencies also have only one year with a three-month extension after the fiscal year to settle payments for the goods and services delivered.

For 2019, the education sector will receive the biggest allocation in the budget, at P659.3 billion. These include the Department of Education, the state universities and colleges, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will receive the second biggest allocation, at P555.7 billion, followed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, at P225.6 billion, the Department of National Defense, at P183.4 billion, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, at P173.3 billion.

Also in the top ten in terms of allocations are the Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, the judiciary and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Included in the House's 2019 budget bill is the realigned P52-billion budget from the DPWH distributed to some government agencies that provide basic social services.

The portion of the budget was realigned after the House convened as a Committee of the Whole, amending the committee report that the Committee on Appropriations, then chaired by former Davao City Representative and now Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, had approved.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, who chairs the Committee of the Whole, said the House considered the requests of President Rodrigo Duterte for funding for his programs and projects, particularly for housing and road constructions, in coming up with the final version of their budget bill.

"We try our best to keep the budget in line with his vision," Andaya said at a press conference earlier in the day.

Andaya, however, vowed that the proposed 2019 national budget is "pork-free," contrary to what Senator Panfilo Lacson claims.

"Everything that we are doing here is compliant with all pertinent laws and Supreme Court decisions. As much as possible, line items ang gusto namin para klaro," he said.

Following the approval of the House's budget bill on final reading, it will be transmitted to the Senate for its own deliberation and approval.

A bicameral conference committee will then reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the Senate and the House's versions of the budget bill before it lands on Duterte's desk for signing and enactment, which Andaya expects to happen before the end of the year. — RSJ, GMA News