Opening Statement: 3rd Bicameral Committee Meeting on the 2019 Budget

January 30, 2019

Opening Statement of Sen. Loren Legarda
Chairperson, Senate Committee on Finance
3rd Bicameral Committee Meeting on the 2019 Budget
30 January 2019, Manila Polo Club

At the outset, I wish to thank the technical staff of both the House and of the Senate who went over the amendments of both Houses to identify which of these should be considered as institutional amendments and individual amendments. We were working until past midnight with the technical staff sent by Congressman Andaya to the Senate. That was the reason why the bicameral meeting scheduled yesterday afternoon had to be cancelled, upon the request of the technical staff of both Houses.

The technical staff has submitted to their respective Chairpersons a copy of the budget recommendations, which we have to scrutinize before we approve each and every line amendment.  At the rate we are going, we do not expect the bicameral meeting on the disagreeing provisions on the GAB to finish tonight.

However, there are two items in the 2019 budget that I am very concerned about:  the budget for the Commission on Elections and the budget for the 4th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) III for our civil servants and the salary adjustment of the Military and Uniformed Personnel.  We would like to assure the voting public, and our government personnel that the Department of Budget and Management will source the necessary funds for the mid-term elections and salary adjustments.  I have personally called DBM to discuss this and they assured us that:

  1. For the requirements for the May elections, the funds will be sourced from the Php 10 billion unutilized fund of COMELEC, as well as from the Contingency Fund; and,
  1. The 4th tranche of the SSL3 will be sourced from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF).

Thus, even if the bicameral conference meeting goes on for another week because session adjourns next week, we can actually go on until Friday, February 8, which I am willing to do and even willing to go beyond for a special session if it warrants, these concerns will already be taken cared of separately.  Hindi po maaapektuhan ang SSL at ang eleksyon, anuman ang mangyari.

Because the Senate contingent has to study and further examine the proposals of the technical staff, and I expect the House panel will do the same, we can discuss what’s the next best thing to do.

Thank you.