Thursday, January 03, 2008

Reconciled budget bill done this month

Representative Lagman hopes meeting with Senator Enrile can help avoid reenacted budget for 2008

By Maricel V. Cruz Reporter

The bicameral conference committee on the proposed P1.227-trillion national budget for 2008 is expected next week to come up with a reconciled version of the measure to fast track its approval and prevent a reenacted budget.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, made this disclosure, saying he would meet with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, shortly after January 7 to forge a reconciled appropriations bill. Lagman also heads the House panel in the Bicameral Conference Committee on the budget bill.

For Lagman, the disagreeing provisions of the House and Senate versions in the General Appropriations Act of 2008 “cannot be vanished instantly by a magic wand.”

Lagman said his meeting with Enrile will center on how much could be cut or reduced in the debt service allocation, and how much could be added to the budget for basic services like education, health, social welfare and development, agriculture, infrastructure, environment, energy, and national order and security.

Lagman said both houses would also craft the needed special provisions to ensure full implementation of congressional realignments and augmentations.

Both Lagman and Enrile have been authorized by their respective panels to work out a compromise version before both bran-ches of Congress resume session on January 28.

The compromise bill is still subject to formal confirmation by the Bicameral Conference Committee, and final plenary ratification by the House and the Senate assembled individually.

After the budget bill is ratified by both houses of Congress, it will be given to President Gloria Arroyo for approval.

The President, however, may choose to veto questionable line items, and her veto can only be overridden by a 2/3 vote of each branch of Congress.

More funds for state schools

In another development, Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, has identified the most outstanding of the 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country and pressed for the allocation of more funds to enable them to maintain their excellence.

Angara has sponsored a bill to provide more budget for the most outstanding SUCs, which in his list includes: the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte; Central State University in Munoz, Nueva Ecija; Visayas State University in Baybay, Leyte; Aklan State University in Kalibo, Aklan; and University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

He did not mention anymore the University of the Philippines and the Philippine Normal University among the outstanding SUCs “because they are a class by themselves.”

These SUCs have varying standards and stages of development, but Angara “characterized them as outstanding because of their notable research and development output, their international linkages with some of the leading universities in Asia, Europe and the US, and the commercialization of their inventions.”

He also lauded the five universities for producing outstanding agricultural and technological graduates, as well as research and development projects and outputs.
--With Efren L. Danao

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