President Duterte need not call Congress to hold a special session to pass the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget 2021 if Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano will only reconvene plenary sessions which he had allegedly called off to remain in power.
Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said Cayetano should heed the call of Duterte’s economic managers and the business community to allow a huge majority of Congress to return to work and continue the budget deliberations.
Atienza noted that many senators believe that instead of ensuring the timely approval of the 2021 national budget, there are now fears that it will not be enacted on time because of the railroading by the Lower House of the second reading approval of the budget measure.
He challenged Cayetano to heed the warnings by immediately reopening the budget deliberations to allow House members to scrutinize and pass a national budget that is “fair, equitable, timely and responsive to the needs of Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Atienza said Cayetano should realize by now the dire “consequences” of his decision on Tuesday to terminate plenary deliberation of the budget and have it passed on second reading.
“He has held the entire budget hostage because of his vicious desire to cling to power,” said Atienza, one of the lawmakers who called for the immediate resumption of the plenary debates on the 2021 budget proposal.
Duterte’s economic managers and the business community have expressed their concerns over the possibility of a delayed budget and its economic impact after Cayetano and his clique in the House of Representatives suspended the session until Nov. 16.
Cayetano also drew the ire of some lawmakers after he terminated the plenary deliberations and approved the 2021 budget on second reading without giving them a chance to scrutinize the government’s spending plan for next year.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua warned against the negative effects of reenacting the 2020 appropriations, especially as the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic.
Avisado said several government projects will be affected if the budget bill is not passed on time, while Chua said a reenacted budget will not help in the government’s recovery program.
Malacanang is reportedly prepared to call for a special session to prevent further delay in the budget approval.
A reenacted budget means that the government cannot fund programs appropriated for next year as it will have to operate on the same general appropriations as 2020.
The proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 budget is designed to provide budgetary support for programs, activities, and projects that will address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Management Association of the Philippines president Francisco Lim said it is “critical” that Congress pass the 2021 budget on time, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the Philippines operated on a reenacted budget after Congress failed to pass it on time, and the spending program signed into law only in April that year.
The government’s economic cluster blamed the reenacted budget for the slow economic growth recorded during the first and second quarters of 2019.