Philippines welcomes 2020 by operating on a reenacted budget

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government operates under a reenacted budget anew, as President Rodrigo Duterte failed to sign the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, before 2019 ended.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that the 2020 budget will be signed on the first week of January. As for its tentative schedule, Senator Sonny Angara, the Senate finance panel head, told Rappler that it's currently scheduled on Monday, January 6.

"Yes, [there will be reenacted budget] for a few days. Signing [is] planned for January 6," Angara said in a text message.

What does this mean? The Philippine government would be utilizing funds from the P3.662-trillion appropriations under the 2019 budget, for the first few days of January.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told Rappler that there's nothing to worry about as the 6-day reenacted budget won't slow down the economy.

Duterte signed Republic Act No 11464 that extended the shelf life of "all appropriations" of the 2019 budget. This included personnel services – which was not in the original proposal – as if expecting a reenacted budget for the year to come.

"Hindi po 'yan makakaapekto sa ating ekonomiya dahil mapipirmahan naman ang 2020 national budget within the month of January at sigurado naman po na ma-rerelease na ang personal services at MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenditures) ng lahat ng kagawaran at ahensya ng pamahalaan starting January 2," Avisado told Rappler in a text message.

(It (reenacted budget) won't affect the economy because the 2020 national budget will be signed within the month of January and we are sure that funds for personnel services and MOOE for all departments and line agencies of the government will be released starting January 2.)

Should the signing go as planned, Avisado said that the funding for capital outlay and new programs and projects would be downloaded to agencies within the same month. "Wala pong dapat na ikabahala po. (There's nothing to worry about)," Avisado said.

Angara also said that agencies would have "more time" to utilize its unspent funds under the belatedly-passed 2019 budget.

When the budget was reenacted last year, government employees, particularly the contractual workers, reportedly did not receive their salaries. Angara said this will not happen in 2020 because of the extension of the 2019 budget validity specifically included PS.

Why the delay? For 4 months in 2019, the Philippine government operated under a reenacted budget, which hurt the economy and stunted its growth during the first half of the year.

The weeklong delay in signing the budget bill baffled some, as the President could've not missed the deadline. But in his December 26 briefing, Panelo said that Duterte still has to "go through the details of the 2020 budget."

The deliberations on the spending plan for 2020 was not as controversial as the previous year, but Senator Panfilo Lacson maintained that there were "last-minute insertions" in the bicameral conference committee report.

Lacson hoped the President would veto these projects, just as he did before.

Whether the President will veto some items or not, Panelo said: "This President is a lawyer so he knows what is unconstitutional or not so he decides for himself." – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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