Duterte issues EO authorizing funding for gov’t salary hikes

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed an executive order authorizing funding for the fourth tranche of the salary hike for government workers against any available appropriations from the reenacted 2018 budget, as the contentious process of enacting the 2019 budget threatened to outlive the 17th Congress.

Malacañan Palace released to reporters on Wednesday a copy of Executive Order No. 76, which amends EO No. 201 (Series of 2016). The new EO carries the title “Modifying the salary schedule for civilian government personnel and authorizing the grant of additional benefits for both civilian and military and uniformed personnel.”

Mr. Duterte signed EO No. 76 on March 15, citing the need to implement the fourth tranche salary schedule for civilian government personnel by Jan. 1 of 2019 as indicated in EO 201.

Congress has yet to transmit the 2019 budget to the Palace for signing after it was approved by the bicameral conference. Representatives to the committee from the House have claimed that lump-sum items in the approved document need further “itemization,” creating a standoff with the Senate, which insists that the version approved by the bicameral committee be preserved. The House retrieved the budget sent to the Senate on Wednesday pending further negotiations.

The delay in transmitting the budget for the President’s signature has raised fears that the 2019 budget could be passed as late as August, or after the adjournment of the 17th Congress for the midterm elections in May.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has warned that a budget signing in August could dampen economic growth to around the 5% range because of the unavailability of funding for new projects.

EO 76 notes that Congress has failed to pass the 2019 budget. Hence, the GAA for the preceding year “shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and in effect until the general appropriations bill is passed.”

Section 15 (a) of EO 201 is “hereby amended” under the new EO. The amendment reads: “Pending the enactment of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 GAA, the funding requirements for the compensation adjustment for FY 2019 shall be charged against any available appropriations under the FY 2018 GAA, as reenacted, to be determined by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), subject to existing budgeting, accounting and auditing rules and regulations.”

The order takes effect immediately upon its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. — Arjay L. Balinbin