Senate okays measure extending validity of 2019 budget

WITH 19 affirmative votes, the Senate on Tuesday, November 26, approved on final reading a measure seeking to extend the validity of this year's national budget until December 31, 2020.

Approval of House Bill No. 5437 will ensure the availability of over P12 billion from the calamity fund and other quick response funds lodged with various agencies to finance relief efforts especially in earthquake-stricken Mindanao, said Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee.

"Through this measure we would be extending a big helping hand to the Executive Branch which has had to operate during the first few months of this year on a re-enacted budget and the rest under pressure to spend up to P3.687 trillion of total available appropriations in a span of seven to eight months approximately amidst the election ban on government projects this year," he said.

The measure amends Section 65 of Republic Act No. 11260, otherwise known as the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which implemented a cash-budgeting system.

Under such a system, all appropriations that were not released, obligated or paid by December 31, 2019 shall lapse and revert to the national treasury.

Angara said the extension of the budget's validity would allow the Department of Education to repair 2,900 classrooms, light up 590 schools, restore 57 Gabaldon school buildings, and print up to 11,677 activity sheets and modules for kindergarten and Grade 1 students.

The Department of Health would have funds for infrastructure projects and procurement of medical equipment for 2,800 health facilities.

Angara said the measure also ensures that at least P8 billion of the remaining budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) will be used to pay for the second semester billing under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

"Many other agencies would be able to implement their projects and provide their services to the people if the budget's validity is extended," he added.

It was not the first time that the Senate approved a measure seeking to extend the validity of the budget.

"My predecessors at the finance committee, Senators (Loren) Legarda and (Francis) Escudero, also sponsored in 2013 and 2018, respectively, similar measures calling for extensions in the budget validity," Angara said.

"The Senate is not oblivious to the travails of the Executive Branch and we must help them. We must see to it that the national budget we approved for 2019 would benefit our people in terms of better services and more efficient public spending," he added. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)