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House OKs 2019 national budget on second reading



After weeks of heated discussions over budget cuts, the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening finally approved on second reading the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2019.

Through a viva voce voting, majority of lawmakers approved the proposed P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for next year under House Bill 8169.

House Majority Leader Rolando Jr. (Camarines Sur) moved for the creation a small committee that would finalize the proposed individual amendments before the measure’s expected approval on final reading next week.

Members of the panel include Andaya, House Appropriations Committee senior vice chair Ma. Carmen Zamora and Reps. Federico Sandoval (Malaon), and Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon (Davao Oriental) for the majority bloc while Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (Quezon), and Reps. Anthony Bravo (COOP-NATCO Partylist) and Edcel Lagman (Albay) represent the minority.

The approval came almost three weeks after the powerful Committee of the Whole decided to override the committee report of the appropriations panel over more than P55 billion ghost insertions.

The disagreements over the alleged midnight insertions almost led to another reorganization in the Lower House after Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, chair of the appropriations panel, wanted to sustain the Php 55-billion insertion and insisted that the amount was part of the original NEP submitted by Malacañang to Congress.

Prior to the discovery of the inserted lump sums in various legislative districts, the proposed GAA suffered a series of setbacks in the appropriations panel due to the cash-based budgeting scheme under the 2019 NEP that led to several budgetary deductions in major government projects

Under the proposed 2019 GAA, education will remain a top priority of the Duterte administration, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of NationalDefense, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Health, Transportation, Agriculture, Judiciary and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).