SWP to Budget Bicam – No more delays in the approval of the 2019 Budget | SWP Press Statement 18 Jan 2019
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), a budget watchdog advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor management of public funds, appeals to the House and the Senate to fast track the deliberations of the 2019 proposed budget following an impasse last year which consequently led to a reenacted budget at least for the first two months of 2019.
“Operating under a reenacted budget effectively means that funding for basic goods and services necessary to protect, if not uplift, peoples’ standard of living such as additional provision of cash assistance for the poorest or health support, will be effectively hampered. Further delay in the passage of the proposed budget law would be unfair to our people”, SWP Co-Convenor Ma. Victoria Raquiza said.
Such delay was largely due to the rescinding of support of the House of Representatives for the more efficient cash-based budgeting system that was introduced by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), thereby delaying the approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). It is the first time in ten years since the government last operated on a reenacted budget. The reenactment of 2004 and 2006 budgets, under the term of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, were both stretched for an entire year.
“With efforts to rechannel allocations which were questioned by the Senate, we hope that the Senate and the Bicameral committee panel champion SWP’s proposed alternative allocation in the 2019 budget bill, especially on the protection of the rights of the child", SWP Co-Convenor Rene Raya added.
Amounting to P2.3 billion, SWP alternative budget proposals on child protection aim to strengthen policies, mechanisms, and capacities that will enable the reduction, if not, elimination of all forms of abuses in school settings, including against children with disability, as well as exploitation and neglect of children engaged in work, conflict and disaster situations. These proposals are lodged under the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Judiciary.
While the DBM issued a circular allotting a cap in the spending of agencies by 25% for the first quarter of 2019, a reenacted budget remains to be susceptible to arbitrary allocations by the Executive, allocating funds without the knowledge or approval of Congress. “Without an approved budget, this may increase the use of lump sum budget items like special purpose funds or unprogrammed funds for discretionary purposes. The budget for 2019 has wide-ranging implications on election spending”, Raquiza explained.
While anticipating a Senate version of the 2019 budget early next week, SWP warned about the effect of a possible deadlock at the Bicam level, given that certain House initiative may either be removed or realigned by their counterpart in the Senate. “The President has certified the passage of the 2019 budget as urgent months ago. The longer it takes for the House and the Senate to reconcile conflicting provisions and submit a ratified 2019 budget to the President for final signature and approval, the adverse ramifications are for the implementation of much needed programs and services for the poor and the most vulnerable, including children”, Raya concluded
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