Press Release
December 4, 2018

On the need to fund certain measures in the 2019 budget

There are gaps in the proposed 2019 budget which the Senate can address in a transparent, legal way.

No one is to be blamed for the oversight, as these unfunded mandates arose from laws passed after the 2019 national budget has been prepared in the executive branch.

In addition to new laws, there is the Supreme Court ruling on the IRA case, which now adds billions in revenue plowbacks to local government. The ink had already dried on the proposed 2019 budget when this was promulgated.

Nature also contributed to the need to recast portions of the budget. The damage caused by Ompong, to cite just one typhoon, will cost billions to repair and was impossible to forecast.

The truth is, developments break while the budget is being heard in Congress. The correct response is to try to accommodate them in the budget and not to totally ignore them.

One of these supervening events is the Rice Tarrification Bill. If it will be signed into law while the 2019 national budget is still being debated in the Senate, then the Senate should fund the law's mandate that a minimum P10 billion be annually provided for farmers to cope with the removal of import restrictions. This was a promise given by the government to farmers, which it must redeem.

If the Coco Levy Bill will also be signed ahead of the Senate's approval of the 2019 budget, then the Senate should likewise incorporate into the 2019 budget the P10 billion it guarantees in yearly appropriations. The return of the levy has been delayed. It is an injustice to subject its funding to dilution.

Another landmark legislation which must be funded before the start of the next fiscal year is the Universal Health Care law. Based on preliminary estimates, some P18 billion must be added to what is provided in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law is also one big promissory note we have issued to our brothers in the South. The consequences are great if we default on this. The first downpayment in realizing the many promises of BOL must be in the 2019 budget.

Admittedly, there is tight budget space, and not much reallocable funds to go around, in filling these gaps. Budgeting is a zero-sum game. By law, we cannot breach the total ceiling that the President has recommended.

The least the Senate can do, however, is put some money, rechanneled from low-priority and postponable expenditures, into these laws and programs so they can qualify for augmentation in a manner compliant with established rules. A peso is better than zero.

News Latest News Feed