By Charmaine A. Tadalan
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday finally signed the four-month delayed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget into law, but vetoed about P95.3 billion in appropriations.
The budget goes into the books as Republic Act No. 11260, or the General Appropriations Act of 2019, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a mobile phone message to reporters. “RA No 11260 Budget Act for 2019 into law. Vetoed 95.3 B,” he said in his text message.
Asked for confirmation, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea replied in a separate text message: “yes”, adding that “[t]he President, among others, vetoed P95.3 billion items of appropriations in the details of DPWH programs/projects, which are not within the programmed priorities.”
The President last week threatened to veto the entire 2019 budget, should Malacañang’s review unearth irregular fund realignments.
In a statement sent late Monday night, House Majority Leader Fredenil H. Castro of the 2nd district of Capiz said: “We welcome the President’s signing of the 2019 budget.”
“We respect his decision to veto some items in the budget. We will abide with the President’s decision and respect the thorough study made by his team after all factors were considered.”
The budget, ratified on Feb. 8 by both chambers of Congress, was transmitted to the Office of the President just on March 26 by the Senate with a letter on the Senate President’s reservations over some P95 billion in funds the House of Representatives allegedly realigned after the spending plan was ratified.
Of this amount, P75 billion was realigned to fund programs and projects under the Local Infrastructure Program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III had warned in January that the delay in budget enactment would prevent the government from spending on P46 billion worth of priority projects in the first quarter, and in the middle of March said the state would be hard-put to catch up on its disbursement program for the year. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said on Friday that economic managers have prepared a contingency plan to catch up on spending.
The delay in the budget enactment had prompted the interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee — headed by state economic managers — on March 13 to slash its target for 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) expansion to 6-7% from 7-8%, while the National Economic and Development Authority projected separately that the full-year GDP growth could clock in at 6.1-6.3% from 6.2% last year if the reenacted 2018 budget were to remain in force until April.