THE PROPOSED P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be approved on Tuesday, instead of Monday as initially planned, as senators sought more time to study the version produced by the Bicameral Conference Committee, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said on Sunday.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, House of Representatives Appropriations Committee vice-chairman, had earlier said that the budget would be up for Bicameral Conference Committee approval and ratification of both chambers on Monday.

But Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said in a mobile phone message, “Moving naman ’yung discussions but senators asked for a one-day period to review the reconciled Bicam[eral Conference Committee] version of the budget.”

“So to give that, we will likely meet Tuesday for approval.”

In a separate message to reporters, Mr. Angara said that the two versions of the proposed 2020 national budget have been “approximately 90-95% reconciled” by the bicameral body.

He also noted that the proposals made by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson had been incorporated in the budget. “Senator Lacson’s proposals like placing some limits on administrative costs and having the possibility of greater local projects have also been adopted in some form in the budget’s general and special provisions.”

Mr. Lacson had proposed to realign funds for implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act and the Philippine Identification System Act.

He also moved to slash the budgets of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways, particularly funds allocated for right-of-way acquisition.

Mr. Salceda said postponement of the meeting scheduled for Monday did not result from any problem between the House and the Senate, telling reporters via text: “Wala… ’yun naman talaga.”

The Bicameral Conference Committee, led by Mr. Angara and House Appropriations Chairman Isidro T. Ungab of Davao City’s 2nd District, began its work on Nov. 29, during which both chambers submitted their respective proposed amendments.

The House approved House Bill No. 4228, or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020, on Sept. 20, while the Senate passed its version on Nov. 27.

The 18th Congress is targeting to have the 2020 spending plan approved and ratified within the week — ahead of its Dec. 21, 2019-Jan. 19, 2020 Christmas-New Year break — in time for submission to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for signing into law before the year ends.

The Department of Budget and Management began 2021 national budget preparations on Nov. 29 as it released the national budget call asking government agencies to draft their proposed budgets.

The government is working to prevent a repeat of the nearly four-month delay in 2019 budget enactment. President Duterte signed the 2019 budget on April 15, but vetoed some P95.3 billion appropriations deemed unconstitutional.

The delay stemmed from an impasse between the House and the DBM over a stricter spending framework. It was further delayed after the Senate found post-ratification realignments made by some House members.

That delay plus a ban on new public works 45 days ahead of the May 13 midterm elections — which left planned new infrastructure projects unfunded last semester — made overall economic growth slow to 5.8% in the first three quarters from 6.2% a year ago and against a 6-7% government target for 2019. — Charmaine A. Tadalan