MANILA — Members of both chambers of Congress on Thursday conducted a bicameral conference to reconcile the differences between their respective versions of the proposed PHP3.767-trillion national budget for 2018.
The bicameral conference, spearheaded by House appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles and Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda, was held in an executive session at the House of Representatives.
Emerging from the meeting, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the bicameral conference committee decided to assign two small groups to discuss and resolve the contentious provisions in the two versions of the proposed 2018 budget.
Lacson said both chairpersons of the House and Senate panels were designated as representatives of the small groups.
“We assigned a small group bicam kasi kung lahat kami magdi-discuss hindi matatapos, kasi ang daming issues involved,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the members of the bicameral conference committee have at least 24 hours to study and scrutinize the output of the small groups.
In a separate interview, Nograles said the Senate and House have until December 13 to ratify the 2018 budget in order to meet the December 19 deadline for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing into law.
“Ideally, we have to ratify this before Congress goes into a break on December 13. So, ideally by December 12, ratified na ito by both Houses of Congress. That way, (by) December 19, as scheduled, pirmado na ni President Duterte ito,” Nograles said.
The Senate approved on final reading the proposed 2018 national budget last Wednesday, while the House passed its own version last September.
Legarda, for her part, highlighted the salient features on the Senate’s version of the bill, including the PHP1.8 billion for cash allowance of teachers; PHP6.5 billion to fund the health insurance of government employees under PhilHealth’s Universal Healthcare Program; and the PHP10 billion for Marawi rehabilitation, among others.