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House committee endorses P4.1-trillion budget

house committee endorses p4 1 trillion budget 816x445 - House committee endorses P4.1-trillion budget

THE House of Representatives appropriations committee yesterday endorsed the P4.1 trillion national budget for next year, without changes, according to its chairman.

Members of the panel unanimously approved the budget bill during a closed-door session, Davao City Rep. Isidro T. Ungab, who heads the committee, told reporters.

The measure breezed through the committee because “there were no objections,” the congressman said.

The committee report on the 2020 General Appropriations bill remained faithful to the Executive branch’s national expenditure program, Albay Rep. Jose Ma. S. Salceda, who heads the ways and means committee, told reporters.

“No comma, no period, no interjections, no semicolon. It’s just the same,” the congressman said.

The hearings on the 2020 budget ended on Sept. 6. Plenary debates are scheduled for Sept. 12 to Oct. 4.

Lawmakers expect to finish deliberations by Sept. 20 and send the approved bill to the Senate by Oct. 4 at the latest, Mr. Ungab said.

Last year’s budget was delayed because of alleged “insertions” and the resulting disputes about changes to the spending program. President Rodrigo R. Duterte eventually vetoed more than P95 billion worth of budget items after signing the measure in mid-April.

The budget delay has been cited as a factor in the sharp slowdown in economic growth, because of the delays in the release of infrastructure funds, which had to reach the contractors in time for the critical dry-season building window.

Mr. Salceda thinks the P4.1 trillion national budget will help the government attain its goals.

“It is not our job to make it acceptable to the Senate,” the congressman said of the House version. “The Speaker said we wanted to approve the budget that serves the people.”

Mr. Salceda said next year’s budget will help the country achieve its target to become an upper-middle country by 2022, and obtain an A credit rating.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee in March cut the government’s economic growth target this year to 6% to 7% from 7% to 8%. The growth target for next year was also lowered to 6.5% to 7.5% from 7% to 8% due to the delayed enactment of the national budget.

Also yesterday, the House appropriations committee approved a P58-million budget for a bill that seeks to reform the country’s real property valuation and assessment system and reorganize the Bureau of Local Government Finance.

The panel approved the bill filed by Mr. Salceda without changes, Mr. Ungab said.

Mr. Salceda said local government units are expected to gain P1 billion because of the measure.

The measure seeks to empower local governments to create their own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, fees and charges.

The bill provide a comprehensive and updated electronic database of all real property transactions.

The bill will help institutionalize the third installment of the government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Package, which aims to promote a just and equitable real property valuation system, said Batangas City Rep. Mario A. Mariño, who heads the government reorganization committee.

“The reform will broaden the tax base for local and national property and property-related taxes and expedite the valuation-based government activities, such as right-of-way acquisition and administration of land transfer taxes,” Mr. Mariño said. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

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