Senator Chiz Escudero, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, delivers a privilege speech on the 2014 General Appropriations Bill, Tuesday morning. According to Escudero, the 2014 budget proposal, which includes funds for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and projects in the amount of P70 billion, will also include specific funding for the rehabilitation of the Visayas on top of the existing calamity fund to be sourced from items which can be postponed in the 2014 national budget. (MNS photo)

Senator Chiz Escudero, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, delivers a privilege speech on the 2014 General Appropriations Bill, Tuesday morning. According to Escudero, the 2014 budget proposal, which includes funds for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and projects in the amount of P70 billion, will also include specific funding for the rehabilitation of the Visayas on top of the existing calamity fund to be sourced from items which can be postponed in the 2014 national budget. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – In a meeting that lasted less than five minutes, the bicameral conference committee on Wednesday approved the proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget.

In an interview with reporters, Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the finance committee, said the House of Representatives basically adopted the Senate version of the definition of savings to ensure that next year’s budget is compliant with the Supreme Court decision.

With the definition of savings, Malacañang does not have much leeway with the 2015 budget, the Escudero said.

Tulad ng sinabi ng Korte Suprema… Una, hindi pwedeng desisyon lamang nila na hindi na gagamitin ‘yung pondo para sa proyekto,” he said.

In the budget bill the bicameral committee approved, savings refer to portions or balances of any released appropriations under the 2015 budget but have not been obligated as a result of the following:

an ongoing program, activity or project was discontinued or abandoned and given finality the agency head concerned due to causes that cannot be cited as the fault or negligence of the agency that would implement the program, activity or project impossible

the program, activity or project could commence because the appropriations is released due to natural or man-made calamities or other causes not attributable to the fault or negligence of the agency concerned

decreased cost as a result of improved efficiency during implementation or until the program, activity or project is completed

a difference between the  budget approvedfor the contract and the contract price that was awarded

Savings may likewise refer to available balances of appropriations arising from unused compensation and related costs pertaining to unfilled, vacant or abolished positions, non-entitlement to allowances and benefits, leaves of absence without pay and unutilized pension and retirement benefits arising from death of pensioners, decrease in the number of retirees, or other related causes.

However, programmed appropriations or allotments which have not been released or allotments not obligated due to the fault of the agency concerned shall not be considered savings.

Escudero noted the bicameral committee made a total of P72.542 billion worth of realignments in the proposed budget.

A big chunk of that nanggaling sa unprogrammed fund, dun sa MRT. Ang ni-restore lamang sa MRT ay yung pambayad o pambili ng remaining outstanding bonds na binabayaran pa rin natin na 15 percent at yung P6.6 billion roughly para sa pambayad ng buwis in connection with the BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract.

“Approximately P4 billion ‘yung remaining 16 percent ng mga bonds na hindi pa nabibili ng DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) at Landbank (Land Bank of the Philippines),” he said.

The bicameral committee removed a P53.9-billion appropriation for a government buyout of Metro Rail Transit-3 from its private owners.

Part of the fund was realigned for the rehabilitation of MRT 3 which would cost around P5 billion.

Escudero also said they removed the P8 billion proposed budget for the Bangsamoro fund as indicated in the errata of the Department of Budget and Management.

Tinanggal namin yung P8 billion. I don’t see any problem kasi pag na-approve yung Bangsamoro Basic Law, magkakaroon ng Bangsamoro Transition Commission na syang hahawak ng pondo ng ARMM na humigit kumulang P24 billion. Sapat naman na siguro ‘yun kung anumang dapat gawin sa transition,” he said.

Post-enactment intervention

They also stated in the proposed bill that post-enactment intervention is not allowed, according to the Senator.

Nakalagay ‘yung probisyon, dun sa desisyon ng korte kaugnay sa nagsasabing bawal ang post enactment intervention ng sinumang mambabatas matapos mapasa itong budget,” he said.

The senator said penal provisions for department or agency heads who will fail to report on their spending – proposed by the Senate – was also removed.

Ni-refer na lang namin sa Administrative Code, Anti-Graft Law at Code of Ethical Standards ‘yung sa reportorial requirement. Naging issue ‘yun na maglalagay ng penalty sa budget document baka daw mastrike down bilang rider ang probisyon na naglalagay ng imprisonment o suspension o fine dahil hindi siya integral part ng budget,” he said.

He expects both the Senate and House to ratify the budget bill this Wednesday.

Hopefully, maratify mamaya kung mapirmahan ng bicameral conference committee members ng Senado dahil sa parte ng House, matapos nilang i-adopt, pinirmahan na rin nila yung version,” Escudero said.

After the Senate and House of Representatives ratify the bill, it will be sent to the President for his signature or veto. (MNS)