THE 2019 budget could be delayed at least one week more after Palace officials took a ceremonial signing scheduled for Monday off the President’s calendar, saying that the General Appropriations Bill was still under study.
At a news conference at the Palace on Thursday morning, the President’s spokesperson, Salvador S. Panelo, said: “Naka-calendar, tapos tinanggal sa calendar… Lahat naman ng schedule niya subject to change without prior notice…. Kinalendar na, pero mukhang pinag-aaralan pa. Eh baka after Holy Week. (It was on the calendar, then it was removed. All schedules are subject to change without prior notice… It looks like they are still studying it. Maybe it will be signed after Holy Week).”
The confusion over the long-delayed budget signing reflects the extraordinary scrutiny the document is undergoing after a contentious approval process involving alleged “insertions” made after both chambers of Congress approved a version in bicameral conference committee. Both chambers resolved their impasse by agreeing to transmit the budget bill to the Palace, leaving it to the President to veto items that might be unlawful.
The budget saga means that the government has been operating for more than a quarter on a re-enacted 2018 Budget, threatening funding for new projects and ultimately the ambitious growth targets set by economic managers.
Asked if there was a final schedule for the signing of the budget bill, he said: “Ay hindi ko alam kung kailan (I do not know when.)”
Mr. Panelo issued on Wednesday night a statement on the bill signing, which said: “The Palace confirms that the ceremonial signing of the General Appropriations Act 2019 has been calendared on the President’s schedule on April 15, Monday.”
Another Palace official, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, said earlier in the week that the measure could be signed by Holy Week, which is next week. — Arjay L. Balinbin