The Senate plans to resume session a week earlier than scheduled to tackle the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year and the corporate income tax reform bill, said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“We have a plan to open the session early. We might open the session on Nov. 9 rather than on Nov. 16. We want to start work early so we can finish the budget bill sooner,” Zubiri said.
He also said it was unlikely that the senators would be able to finish the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill by Thursday—the last session day for senators.
“Fearless forecast, we cannot finish tonight so we need to go back to work earlier,” Zubiri said.
The CREATE bill, he pointed out, is a commitment of the Senate leadership to the Executive.
He said he hoped it would be finished by mid-November.
Zubiri said the budget hearings hearings of the Senate will continue during the congressional recess and that the bill could bebe sponsored in the plenary by Nov. 9.
The plan of the Senate is anchored on the expectation that the House of Representatives would deliver on its commitment to pass the budget on Friday.
Newly elected Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has promised to pass the budget on third and final reading Friday, so that it could be transmitted to the Senate.
In related developments:
• The Department of Agrarian Reform on Thursday welcomed the approval of its proposed P8.8-billion budget for 2021 at the House of Representatives. The agency’s proposed 2021 budget is about 7 percent lower than its current budget for 2020 worth P9.135 billion. Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones justified the proposed budget, saying the bulk of the funds would be used for implementing individual land titling towards land tenure security.
• A congressional leader on Thursday urged the House of Representatives to increase the 2021 budget of the Commission on Audit (COA) by P1.3 billion. In Resolution 1275, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the commission had proposed an outlay of P13.575 billion for next year, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reduced it by 3.55 percent to P13.568 billion, which is almost P500 million higher than this year’s P13.086 billion.
“While at first glance, it looks that the COA was given what they requested, a closer look would show that they were indeed given an increase in their personnel services (salaries) of P667.4 million, but their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) were both drastically decreased,” he said, noting that these cuts would seriously hamper the operations of COA.