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2019 budget may be signed before Holy Week

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte may sign the proposed 2019 national budget into law before the start of the Holy Week, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

“We are hopeful that the President will sign the budget maybe this week or next week,” he said.

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The P3.7-trillion national budget is “being vetted and reviewed as of now,” Nograles said of the budget submitted to Malacañang on March 26 after a monthslong impasse.

Will lapse into law

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The enrolled bill will lapse into law if the President does not act on it within 30 days.

Although the budget’s looming approval will enable the government to catch up on its infrastructure spending, signing it into law may include a veto message, Nograles said.

“There’s a veto message from the President every year. That is part of [his] prerogative. Before he signs it, the veto message will be vetted and finalized,” the Cabinet secretary explained.

Veto prerogative

Senate President Vicente Sotto III signed the 2019 proposed budget in March, but asked Mr. Duterte to exercise his veto prerogative over P75 billion worth of postratification realigments by the House of Representatives.

The Senate and the House have been locked in a monthslong impasse over the controversial last-minute realignments that the Senate deemed as unconstitutional.

Nograles expressed optimism that the government could catch up on infrastructure spending and investments once the national budget is signed into law.

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However, Malacañang will have to wait for the lifting of the election public works ban that took effect on March 29 and will end on May 12.

“Because we will be affected by the election ban, we might have to construct infrastructure projects during the rainy season. Which is not ideal. There will be delays there,” Nograles said.

Delayed implementation

He added that the effectivity of the 2019 national budget may extend beyond December 2019, until the middle of 2020 because of its delayed implementation.

Sotto earlier refused to sign the budget after Sen. Panfilo Lacson claimed that House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had realigned billions to favor certain lawmakers, which she denied.

Lacson earlier said some P75 billion in funds had been realigned by the House to various lawmakers.

Good for the economy

Nograles said there would be more infrastructure projects lined up for 2020 as a result of the overlap of the 2019 national budget and the anticipated 2020 budget.

This will be good for the economy in terms of the number of infrastructure projects that will generate more jobs for Filipinos, Nograles said.

He explained that the government could not implement infrastructure projects while operating under a reenacted budget, since it will simply follow the itemized listing of projects from last year.

The official also stressed the importance of closer coordination between the two chambers of Congress and the executive branch to prevent a repeat of the budget impasse.

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