Screengrab from ABS-CBN NewsYouTube account.
NO MATTER who wins in the seemingly endless budget row between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Filipino people will certainly be on the losing end.
On February 8, after months of delay, both legislative chambers yielded to compromise to pass the 2019 national budget. But new allegations of lump sum alignments in the ratified budget drove the House and Senate into another stalemate. Even the presidents intervention failed to resolve the month-long budget deadlock along with a looming prospect of a presidential veto.
Taking their cue from the warning of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), some reports presented the possible effect of a reenacted budget on the economy. But most of these merely cited Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia saying it could lead to a slow down of economic growth to 4.2% to 4.9%.
CMFR cheers the exceptional reports that chose to detail the negative effects of a reenacted budget on different sectors.
ANCs Dissecting Data aired on March 13 stood out for its analysis of the national budget from 2000 to 2019. According to the report, this is the first time that the budget has been delayed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos term. Her government was notorious for not passing a new budget on time during her administration, operating on full-year reenacted budgets in 2001, 2004 and 2006.
Citing data from the budget department and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA),
reporter Warren de Guzman pointed out that budget delays slows down outlays for infrastructure, resulting in slower growth. The data showed that infrastructure building increases whenever a new budget is enacted on time.
Large infrastructure projects take years to plan and execute. Without a proper budget in place, large projects like airports, tollways and seaports either dont get finished or are poorly executed, De Guzman said.
On March 7, a Business Mirror report also reviewed the negative effect of budget failure on the transportation sector. Citing Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, BusinessMirror noted that the delay in the passage of the proposed 2019 budget has already affected several big-ticket infrastructure projects, including the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) rehabilitation project, the Metro Manila subway construction, and the North-South Commuter Railway connecting Manila to Bulacan. The report underscored that the delayed budget was not in sync with the administrations Build, Build, Build program and its projected roll out of 75 flagship projects costing up to PHP9-trillion.
In another report published on March 12, BusinessMirror reported the concerns of government employees who missed the scheduled release of the last tranche of their wage increase as provided by the Salary Standardization Law (SSL). Ferdinand Gaite, National President of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), said the delay has affected the fourth and final phase of the SSL, which was supposed to take effect in the first week of February. 1.4 million public sector employees in national agencies and state universities and colleges (SUC) are counting on the approval of a new budget to get the last part of the SSL.
A report from ABS-CBNs TV Patrol aired on March 12 took up the health sector angle. The Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH) will not be able to provide hospitals with new equipment nor hire new personnel. Without funds, the construction of more than 400 health facilities will be delayed. Reporter Sherrie Ann Torres highlighted the need for new facilities, showing patients with measles suffering from the heat in a make-shift ward outside of the East Avenue Medical Hospital.
These reports were out of the box, veering from the legislative beat to help the public appreciate how the failure of Congress to pass the national budget on time affects their lives and the relevance of the budget as an instrument of good government and public service.
Hopefully, the media can also come up with the facts that will show who of the leaders in Congress are holding to a principled decision or simply protecting their political turf.