Bicam approves 2019 budget but rejects cash-based budget system

MANILA, Philippines – The bicameral conference committee has finally approved the report on the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, ending the months-long budget impasse.

The House and Senate contingents to the bicam signed their report on Friday, February 8, roughly two weeks after they started meeting to reconcile conflicting provisions in their versions of the spending bill. (READ: Bicam targets to ratify 2019 budget at the last minute

The bicam, however, rejected the implementation of the cash-based budgeting system for this fiscal year. 

“We reaffirmed to remove the one-year cash budgeting system proposed by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno,” House committee on appropriations chairperson Rolando Andaya Jr said in Filipino after the bicam meeting.  

This was confirmed by another lawmaker who is part of the bicam. The lawmaker, who asked not to be named, said the 2019 budget would follow the old two-year obligation-based budgeting system

“Yes, that will be one of the the provisions. The cash-based budget system will be scrapped and the old obligation-based budget system will be adopted for [the] 2019 budget,” said the bicam member. 

Obligation based vs cash-based: The obligation-based budgeting system disburses payments as obligations or commitments that may not necessarily be delivered within the same year. 

A cash-based budgeting system, meanwhile, limits contractual obligations and disbursement of payments to goods delivered and services rendered within the fiscal year. 

‘Pork’ in the budget: The bicam approved the 2019 budget after its members battled over the alleged “pork-like” insertions of senators and district representatives alike. 

Andaya previously said in an Inquirer report that the proposed 2019 budget contains around P75-billion worth of allocations for the pet projects of legislators. He said 23 senators would get around P3 billion each for their pet projects, while the 292 House members would “equitably share” the remaining P5 billion.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a bicam member, denied Andaya’s allegation, calling it “grossly unfair.” Drilon did not sign the bicam report. 

“I dissent from the approval of the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act…. To give my vote to this budget is like signing a blank check. I simply cannot do that,” said Drilon.

Lawmakers, however, have repeatedly denied these allocations are a form of the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Asisstance Fund or pork barrel, as the funds are itemized. 

Both houses of Congress are expected to separately ratify the bicam report on the 2019 budget. Once they do this, the 2019 GAA would be officially passed by the 17th Congress.

President Rodrigo Duterte may then sign the 2019 GAA into law, putting an end to the government operating on a reenacted 2018 budget. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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