MANILA, Philippines - Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad on Thursday said the timely passage of the proposed 2011 national budget in the Senate could lead to the actual signing of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) before the year ends.
Abad said if the schedule is fulfilled and a copy of the enrolled bill is submitted immediately after, there would be around two weeks for the Department of Budget and Management to peruse the Congress-approved budget, and for the President to finally sign it into law by December 30.
If this happens, it will be the first time in more than a decade that the General Appropriations Act would be signed into law before the fiscal year starts. The 1999 GAA was signed into law by former President Joseph Estrada on December 30, 1998.
“It will be a good start for our country if we have a budget that is not only approved on time, but also addresses the urgent needs of our people in a timely manner. This is a ray of daylight in the often hazy budgeting affair,” he said in a statement.
“We want to keep the sun shining on the budget process not only for this year but for the rest of President Aquino’s term. Kaya kahit patapos pa lang ang proseso ng pagsasabatas ng 2011 budget, pinag-iisipan na namin ang budget para sa 2012 at sa mga susunod pang taon,” he said.
Abad said the Department of Budget and Management is currently finalizing the new budget preparation schedule that will allow the earlier submission to Congress of the proposed National Expenditure Program, possibly right after the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
This new budget preparation schedule will also provide sufficient time for the DBM and the departments and agencies of government to conduct consultations with civil society groups and sectoral groups, as well as with the regions.
The Senate on Wednesday approved the P1.645-trillion national budget for fiscal year 2011 sans cuts to the controversial conditional cash transfer program to poor families.
In the voting, the Senate approved House Bill 3101 on a 12-2 vote, with Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Pia Cayetano voting against the administration's spending plans. The Palace-certified measure has been simultaneously approved on second and third reading, bypassing a three-day rule in between approvals.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said a bicameral conference committee will be convened on December 6 or 7 to iron out disagreements between the Senate and House versions of the budget. Ratification of the budget measure, meanwhile, will be on December 13, he added.
The House of Representatives had approved its version of the budget on third reading last November 8.
Congress is scheduled to start its holiday break on December 18.