The House of Representatives approved on Friday, September 20, on Second and Third Readings, House Bill No. (HB) 4228, or the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which provides for the P4.1-trillion national budget for fiscal year 2020.

Its swift passage was accomplished in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s certification of HB 4228 as urgent, thereby allowing its Second and Third Readings on the same day. On record, there were 257 Affirmatives, 6 Negatives, and 0 Abstentions. 

Approval of the budget bill by the House usually takes place in October. In 2018, the House’s approval of the 2019 budget was done in November. The 2020 budget’s approval is record-setting as it was done in only 20 working days within a period of 30 days. The approval also marks the earliest passage of the budget during the Duterte Administration. This assures the enactment of the 2020 national budget on time and on schedule, in line with the commitment of Speaker Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano that the budget measure has “no pork, no parked fund, and no delay.”

In approving the GAB on time, the House successfully followed its schedule for the budget committee hearings, pre-plenary conferences and plenary deliberations. After the submission of the National Expenditure Program for FY 2020 by DBM Acting Secretary Wendel Avisado last August 20, the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) immediately spent 11 working days on committee hearings on the budget, from August 22 to September 9. Thereafter, the House spent 9 session days for plenary deliberations on the budgets of 72 government offices, from September 10 to 20.

The innovations undertaken by the House under the leadership of Speaker Cayetano made possible the swift passage of the budget without compromising scrutiny and debate. These innovations include holding of simultaneous budget briefings of government offices at the committee-level, pre-plenary discussions to thresh out parochial and sectoral concerns of House Members, and limiting plenary interpolations to questions on policy.

As stated in the 2020 GAB, the top 10 departments with the biggest allocations are: (1) Department of Education, P673 billion; (2) Department of Public Works and Highways, P534.3 billion; (3) Department of the Interior and Local Government, P238 billion; (4) Department of Social Welfare and Development, P195 billion; (5) Department of National Defense, P189 billion; (6) Department of Health, P166.5 billion; (7) Department of Transportation, P147 billion; (8) Department of Agriculture, P93.1 billion; (9) The Judiciary, P38.7 billion; and (10) Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P26.4 billion.

Among the critical programs of the Duterte administration are measures to implement new laws and policies that provide socio-economic assistance to all Filipinos and enhance security of the nation, such as the following:

(1) full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act;

(2) institutionalization of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program;

(3) smooth transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao;

(4) implementation of the liberalization of rice importation;

(5) creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development;

(6) National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

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