Philippines budget in limbo as congress dithers

MANILA • The Philippines is facing further budget delays that threaten to cut growth and stall infrastructure projects as lawmakers continue to fight over their share in the spending plan.

Approval of the 3.76 trillion peso (RM294 billion) budget may be delayed to August, Senate President Vicente Sotto said. He threatened to block its transmittal to President Rodrigo Duterte for final approval over supposed last-minute changes made by the House of Representatives.

“This budget will be delayed unless the House goes back to the version we agreed upon,” Sotto said in a mobile-phone message yesterday.

Economic managers have warned that failure to pass this year’s budget will cut the nation’s economic growth by as much as 2.3 percentage points this year, partly due to spending delays for major projects.

The budget delay will mean that the government will have to forgo 46 billion pesos in spending in the first quarter, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in January.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said House members led by Speaker Gloria Arroyo supposedly distributed 95 billion pesos from the spending plan among themselves without the Senate’s approval.

Rolando Andaya, chairman of the House’s appropriations committee, denied this and accused senators of tinkering with 77 billion pesos in the budget — a claim that Sotto said was not true. — Bloomberg