House 'Committee of the Whole' takes over 2019 budget deliberations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — The House of Representatives on Tuesday constituted itself into a Committee of the Whole, and took over the deliberations on the proposed ₱3.575-trillion 2019 national budget.

This, after a slated plenary debates on the budget proposal got cancelled Monday due to disagreements over a supposed over ₱50-billion insertions.

House Majority Leader Rolando "Nonoy" Andaya, Jr., head of the Committee of the Whole, replaced Appropriations Committee Chairperson and Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles in leading the passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.

During the resumption of the budget proceedings, ₱52-billion worth of funds were re-aligned to different government programs such as the following:

Construction of vocational-technical laboratories under the Department of Education (₱3 billion)

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council capital outlays (₱5 billion)

Infrastructure initiatives under the Department of Public Works and Highways (₱31.5 billion)

Construction of farm to market roads under the Department of Agriculture (₱5 billion)

Human resource and health facilities development (₱6 billion)

State universities and college capital outlays (₱1.2 billion)

"Meron tinanggal worth ₱52 billion. At pinaglaanan ng ₱52 billion. Walang nabawas sa budget, nagkaroon lang ng paggalaw sa budget. Motion carried," Andaya said.

[Translation: Worth ₱52 billion was removed and re-allocated. Nothing was deducted from the budget, but just realignment.]

The House's slated plenary debate on Monday was suspended after Andaya and Nograles got into a shouting match. The latter, according to sources, who have knowledge on the developments, pointed out the supposed questionable insertions, which led to the heated exchange.

The money was supposed to be for the congressional districts of about 40 congressmen favored by former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was in the leadership when the budget was prepared.

Sources said some lawmakers questioned the fund because some projects cannot be carried out, and some small districts were given billions-worth of projects.

Sources also said Andaya asked Nograles to re-align the funds equally to congressmen but the latter supposedly refused, saying Malacanang approved the budget.

The Committee of the Whole approved Andaya's proposed re-alignment. The plenary is expected to finally start the budget debates on Wednesday morning, with Andaya now sponsoring the bill.