Friday, 23 January 2009

Philippine Senate ratifies bicam report of P1.4 B nat’l budget

The Manila Bulletin

The Senate ratified yesterday a conference committee report on the Malacanang-proposed 2009 P1.4 trillion national budget, ending weeks of discussions between the Senate and House of Representatives bicameral committees on the proposed P50 billion economic stimulus program and other provisions in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile banged the gavel at 10:46 a.m. to signal the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed 2009 GAA which was ratified by the Lower House last Wednesday night.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri led the approval of the report at the Senate session hall.

The bicameral conference committee was hammered out by Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee and head of the Senate bicameral conference committee panel, and his counterpart, Rep. Junie Cua, who ironed out the conflicting provisions of the GAA since last December.

Angara expressed hope that the budget would be used and spent wisely.

The report contained the allocation of a controversial P50 billion economic stimulus package coming from the proposed P287.87 billion debt service

Angara said this has been re-aligned to various departments such as increased appropriation of P9.3 billion for the Department of Public Works and Highways, P8.54 billion for the Department of Education and P3.8 billion for the Departrment of Transportation and Communications.

The other P14.8 billion came from budgets of other departments and agencies that could still be deferred.

Opposition Senators Panfilo Lacson and Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino cast the two lone negative votes.

Lacson and fellow-opposition Senators Mar Roxas and Jamby Madrigal asked that their individual P200 million pork barrel, technically called Priority Development Assistance Fund, be deleted in the Senate budget.

Detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV also wanted P100 million of his pork barrel deleted.

Senators and congressmen’s original P6.24 billion pork barrel fund increased to P9.66 billion, or up by P3.4 billion. The port [sic] barrel of each senator is P200 million while a Lower House member has a P70 million pork barrel allocation.

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