Senator backs public bicam talks on 2019 budget

MANILA Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito has no qualm about opening the bicameral conference committee meetings on the 2019 national budget to the public.

Ejercito was reacting Wednesday to the House of Representatives' appropriations committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr.'s proposal to televise the proceedings of the budget bicam to ensure transparency.

"Why not? We in the Senate mostly have institutional insertions. (We have) nothing to hide," he told reporters in a group message when asked about his position on the matter.

Ejercito particularly noted that he has pushed for the restoration of the Department of Health's budget for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program amounting to PHP16.796 billion.

"Most of the government hospitals, regional, district, and provincial are the ones that I made sure there is adequate funding for expansion, improvements and upgrades," he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson has also proposed the live media coverage of the bicam proceedings.

A bicameral conference committee is convened to reconcile conflicting provisions of both Senate and House versions of the bill.

Meanwhile, Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said the bicameral panel will use the 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP) as point of reference, but will also consider the House and Senate versions of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Legarda said their goal is to approve the budget before session is adjourned on February 6 and, hopefully, be signed by the President by Valentine's Day.

The bicam panel already convened on Tuesday, and the next meeting is scheduled on January 28.

The Senate unanimously passed on third and final reading the 2019 GAB on Monday, two months after the House approved the bill on third reading on November 20. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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