Bicameral panel inches closer to sealing 2018 budget, House bucks P50-B cut in DPWH outlay

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DPWH roadwork
DPWH roadwork in file photograph. The House panel in the bicameral conference committee on the 2018 budget has rejected a P50-billion cut in the DPWH's outlay.

MANILA, Philippines – Congress inched closer to approving the P3.767-trillion budget for 2018 after the bicameral conference committee resolved the impasse on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) appropriations.

Davao Representative Karlo Nograles, chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, said the small committee tackling the final version of the budget had decided to reject the Senate’s bid to slash P50.7 billion from the P622.8 billion budget of the DPWH. The House contingent has opposed this cut.

“It’s ongoing (bicameral conference committee meetings). We’re not yet done but we’re over the hump so to speak,” Nograles said in a TV interview.

“Last week there was sort of an impasse between the two panels, the House and the Senate because of several budget cuts that was done by the Senate in their Senate version which did not sit well with members of the House panel. So we had to find a way for us to be able to break that impasse,” he added.

The two chambers are rushing the harmonization of their respective 2018 General Appropriations Bills (GAB) so that President Rodrigo Duterte may sign it on or before December 19.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he hopes the final version would be ready for ratification by December 13, the last day of session of Congress.

Senator Panfilo Lacson had said the P50.7 billion worth of DPWH projects had right of way issues, which would cause delays in implementation. Another P18 billion was a “lump sum” amount because the department could not present details, he added.

Earlier, Alvarez said the House would stand pat on its version and would rather have a reenacted budget than give in to the proposed amendments of the Senate.