Budget chief to recommend to Duterte: Call for special Congress session on 2019 budget

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Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12) — Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he would recommend to the President that Congress should hold a special session to iron out issues in the 2019 budget.

"I'll recommend to the President that he call for a special session," Diokno said in a press briefing Wednesday.

Diokno said Duterte would likely call the session next week, as Congress is still busy with deliberations on martial law in Mindanao.

This, as Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said the upper chamber will no longer finish deliberations on the proposed ₱3.757 trillion national budget for next year.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, meanwhile, blamed the House of Representatives for the delay in the passage of the proposed budget, saying senators received the bill late this year due to insertions of congressmen in the budget.

Diokno explained that senators have long been waiting for the budget to be given to them for amendments.

"It's Congress that should be blamed for this," Diokno said. "We have nothing to do with it. It's in their court."

The Budget chief warned that if Congress fails to pass the 2019 budget, the 2018 budget will be re-enacted, which may cause delays in infrastructure projects, job losses, and higher poverty incidence.

"According to DBM estimates, the reenacted budget would reduce disbursements by around P200 billion by 2019," Diokno said.

Diokno also cited National Economic Develoment Authority data, saying that a reenacted budget could have a gross domestic product (GDP) growth impact of -1.1 to -2.3 percent in 2019. He explained this would result in a GDP of 4.7 to 5.5 percent next year, falling short of the 7 to 8 percent 2019 targets.

Diokno, however, refused to comment if the change in House leadership affected the passage of the appropriations bill.

The Budget chief traded barbs with House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya in the Question Hour of the House Tuesday. Andaya accused Diokno of placing ₱75 billion in this year's Department of Public Works and Highways' budget, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte did not know about it.

Diokno, on the other hand, said Duterte had approved the proposal.