Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said Sunday the Senate, led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III
, and not the House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Arroyo had been sabotaging President Rodrigo Duterte’s build, build, build program.
He made the statement even as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III remained optimistic the two houses of Congress would soon be able to break their impasse over the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.
In a statement over the weekend, Dominguez said it would take about a month after its transmittal to Malacañang―and its subsequent enactment into law by the President Rodrigo Duterte―for this year’s national budget program to take effect.
After Malacañang receives the bill, Dominguez said, it would take the Budget department a few days at the very least to go over the transmitted document, after which the President would review it before signing it into law.
Andaya, chairman of the committee on appropriations, said the “line-itemized budgeting by the House will not cripple President Duterte’s Build, build, build program.”
“What may stall the acceleration of the infrastructure spending was the Senate’s unilateral decision to remove P17 billion for the right-of-way funding of BBB projects, he said.
House Majority Floor Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said Sotto was the only one refusing to sign the national budget.
“Before and even up to now, Speaker GMA has been the ally of the President. Who is blocking the budget?” Castro said.
“The Speaker has already signed it a week ago. Tito Sotto has not yet signed it, and he has stood firm not to sign it. Who is now blocking the budget and putting the nation in limbo?”
Unlike the Senate, Andaya said, the alleged realignments made by Congress on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways had remained intact within the department.
“With all this talk of alleged realignment by the House of DPWH funds, one thing is clear: the funds were there and were never taken out of the public works’ budget,” Andaya said.
“Every single centavo allocated for infrastructure projects was accounted for, line-by-line for each project per district, in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.
“On the contrary, the Senate’s removal of P17 billion worth of right-of-way funding will be the greatest stumbling block
for the President’s infrastructure master plan. Without the knowledge of and consent from the House of Representatives, the Senate removed P12 billion of these funds from the DPWH and P5 billion from the Department of Transportation. How can projects be started without these right-of way-payments? Billions of pesos worth of roads will never begin construction even if these projects are fully-funded.
“What’s worse, the Senate has yet to inform the House where they realigned the right-of-way funds which were taken out of the national expenditure program. Where will the funds really go? Up to this very moment, the senators are also silent on who are the individual proponents for their realignments.
These realignments were made after both chambers ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the 2019 national budget. I urge the senators to speak up on this issue. The tax-paying public deserves to know where their money will be spent.” With Julito G. Rada
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