House kicks off plenary debates on 2020 budget

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 has reached the plenary of the House of Representatives.

House committee on appropriations chairperson Isidro Ungab sponsored the 2020 general appropriations bill (GAB) in the plenary on Tuesday, September 10.

In his speech, Ungab urged his colleagues to keep the "broader national perspective" in mind as they continue to push for higher funds in their respective congressional districts. (READ: Lawmakers want to reinstate in 2020 budget P90-B district allocations)

"We should not forget that while it is expected of each of us to assert the needs of our respective congressional districts and party-list organizations, we are also expected, as leaders of our country, to see things in the broader national perspective," said the Davao City 3rd District congressman.

"After all, our country is more than just the sum of our congressional districts and party-list organizations and the Filipino people are more than just the sum of our respective constituents," added Ungab.

He previously said some 68 legislators are pushing to return to the 2020 budget the P95 billion in public works funds that President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed in this year's budget due to alleged anomalies.

But Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano already said it would be unlikely to reinstate these funds in full in the 2020 budget, as doing so would require the removal of multibillion-peso allocations from other government programs.

There were initial fears the passage of the 2020 budget would be delayed, after Ungab clashed with Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, who had blocked Ungab's supposedly "premature" filing of the 2020 GAB for 1st reading at the plenary on August 28. (READ: Smells like pork? 'Premature' 2020 budget bill withdrawn in House plenary)

The House leadership intervened in the Ungab-Villafuerte fight, with sources telling Rappler that Cayetano had threatened to move Ungab to another committee if he does not compromise with Villafuerte.

The plenary deliberations on the 2020 budget are expected to run for about two weeks, with the House targeting to terminate the debates by September 20.

The House aims to pass the 2020 budget on 3rd and final reading before the 18th Congress takes a monthlong break in October. – 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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