Finally, Duterte signs 2019 budget bill into law

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After over two months of the government operating on a reenacted budget, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the 2019 General Appropriations Act or national budget.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11260 on Monday, April 15 – almost 3 weeks after the Senate transmitted the budget bill to Malacañang – said Executive Secretary Medialdea in a message to reporters.

The President signed the budget 4 days after threatening to "outright veto" the entire budget.

A ceremonial signing of the budget bill into law had been calendared for Monday, April 15, but it was eventually stricken off Duterte's official events because he supposedly needed more time to study it.

Medialdea said the Chief Executive vetoed parts of the budget bill. One vetoed portion was P95.3 billion worth of items in the "Details of DPWH Programs/Projects."

Duterte vetoed this because they are not among his budget "priorities" for 2019, he added.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the vetoed items were either "considered by law and jurisprudence as rider provisions not being related to a particular appropriation" or were items that "seek to amend the Constitution and certain statues."

Duterte also placed certain provisions in the budget under "conditional implementation" supposedly to make sure they are spent in conformity with laws.

These items include the allowance and benefits of teachers and creation of teaching positions, construction of evacuation centers, funding for foreign-assisted projects, "revolving fund," lump-sum approprations for capital outlays, financial assistance to local governments, and funding requirements for the foreign service.

The law provides P3.757 trillion for the national government to spend in 2019.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III had signed the bill with "strong reservations," saying realignments made by the House of representatives after the bicameral conference committee report were unconstitutional.

The Senate had recommended that Duterte veto the P75-billion budget for specific projects and programs of the Local Infrastructure Program, funded through realignments made by the lower house after both chambers ratified the bicameral conference committee report.

There were other issues that had prevented the Senate and House from agreeing on a single version of the budget – from allegations of pork-like insertions to accusations of corruption lobbed at former budget chief Benjamin Diokno, which he categorically denied.

Many worried about the impact of a reenacted budget for the entire 2019, with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia projecting that economic growth could reach a low of 4.2% and Duterte himself worrying about delays in the Build Build Build program. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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