By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter

THE PROPOSED P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 is seen to smooth-sail in the bicameral conference committee, according to a senator, citing less contention in the House leadership.

The bicameral panel on Friday set to work on the annual spending plan, beginning with the submission of proposed amendments by each chamber, which will be tackled in a one-on-one meeting between the leaders of the House and Senate contingent.

Both congressional chambers are working to prevent a repeat of the 2019 budget delay scenario, which forced the government to operate under a reenacted budget for four months.

The delay stemmed from an impasse between the House of Representatives and the Department of Budget and Management, and later with the Senate.

“I think that dispute was a product nung (of) leadership sa (in the) House, e. Ito, mukhang wala namang pagbabago (This, it looks like there are no changes,) so I think, smoother,” Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who chairs the finance committee, told reporters on the sidelines of the bicameral conference committee meeting at the Manila Polo Club.

The first day of the bicameral deliberation saw the exchange of each chamber’s new proposed amendments, which Mr. Angara and Davao 3rd District Rep. Isidro T. Ungab, chair of the House appropriations committee, will discuss.

“What will happen is, I think, the House and the Senate will study the respective changes… each version of the budget, tapos (then) we’ll meet again next week, I think to reconcile,” Mr. Angara said.

“I think the final decision is one-on-one. But there’s always a consultation. What happens is usually, pag may (if there are) amendments they don’t agree with, we’ll have to discuss it with the senator or the congressman who made the amendment.”

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson in a separate chance interview, said among the amendments proposed by the Senate was the reduction of the budget of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and an increase for the Defense and Health departments.

For the Department of Health, the increase would cover the higher pay for nurses as mandated by law.

On the other hand, Mr. Lacson said some P45 billion lump sum appropriation under the DPWH budget was deleted. This was later re-submitted by the DPWH as itemized projects, but was no longer accepted by the chamber.

“The DPWH, being an agency of the executive branch, cannot participate in amending the appropriations measure. Kami lang ang pwedeng mag-amend (We are the only ones who can make amendments),” he said.