PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte and his Cabinet approved last Monday the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, after both chambers of Congress moved to prevent a repeat of last year’s delayed enactment that now weighs on overall economic growth.

“We wish to inform the public that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, together with the members of the Cabinet, approved the P4.1-trillion national budget for Fiscal Year 2020,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, as a senior official of the House of Representatives appropriations committee said next year’s spending plan will remain “cash-based”, meaning it takes into consideration the historical limited spending capacities of individual departments and agencies.

“We assure everyone that our people’s money — with education receiving the biggest slice of the budget, followed by public works, transportation and health — will be spent wisely to reach a state of vibrant economy that will be felt by the citizenry.”

He said the proposed 2020 national budget, which the Executive branch targets to submit to Congress before its deadline to do so on Aug. 21, “is designed to respond to the needs of the majority of our countrymen longing to be uprooted from the decades of want of basic necessities, inadequate supply of basic services, lack of infrastructures required to spur economic growth, absence of accountability on government coffers, vexing bureaucratic rigmarole, deprived education and unchanged poverty, and geared to achieve a more peaceful and progressive Philippines where the living standards of Filipinos are raised.”

Budget Undersecretary Laura B. Pascua said her department is fine-tuning details, saying in a mobile phone message: “We are still finalizing the budget… It is still moving.”

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, the Department of Budget and Management said it “will be finalizing the FY 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP) and other budget documents for submission to Congress before the 30-day Constitutional deadline…” after the July 22 state of the nation address.

“Every peso of the proposed P4.1 trillion FY 2020 Budget went through numerous levels of scrutiny and approval, and budget hearings and consultations with the agencies. Every step of the budget process keeps in mind the objective of lifting millions of Filipinos out of poverty and creating opportunities for them,” the department said.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente Sarte Salceda, vice-chairman of the House appropriations committee, told reporters last Monday that the chamber will target the final approval of the proposed national budget by Oct. 4, before the 18th Congress takes a month-long break.

Mr. Salceda also said the scheme of budgeting for 2020 will be “cash-based.” Under this system, allocated funds have to be spent within a year with a grace period of three months at most.

The government operated on a reenacted 2018 budget from January to April 15, when Mr. Duterte signed this year’s national budget into law but vetoed P95.3 billion in funds that were not in sync with state priorities, slashing the total to P3.662 trillion.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) in its March 13 meeting slashed gross domestic product (GDP) expansion targets for this year (to 6-7% from 7-8% originally) and 2020 (to 6.5-7.5% also from 7-8%), citing constraints from the delayed enactment of the national budget.

In its July 18 meeting, the DBCC retained a budget deficit ceiling equivalent to 3.2% this year, with a targeted P3.536-trillion revenues — consisting largely of P3.332-trillion tax collections — helping to finance programmed expenditures worth P4.214 trillion. — Arjay L. Balinbin