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Pork scam won’t distract Congress from timely passing of 2015 budget

The pork barrel fund controversy gripping both chambers of Congress will not distract the House of Representatives from immediately tackling and passing the 2015 national budget, the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations assured yesterday.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who was dragged into the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) controversy, made the assurance more than a month before the scheduled transmittal of the Malacañang’s proposed budget for next year estimated at P2.606-trillion.

“We will immediately scrutinize it and pass it before year ends amid the PDAF controversy. We will try to finish scrutiny and deliberations of the 2015 budget on time,” he said in an interview.

Earlier Budget Secretary Florencio Abad relayed to state agencies that the Aquino government is targeting to submit a P2.606-trillion national budget for next year, which is P341 billion more than this year’s P2.265-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Traditionally, the Chief Executive submits the proposed national budget to the House of Representatives and the Senate a day after the State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).

Ungab said he cannot say whether or not they would be able to start the budget deliberations by second week of August.

“The committee will still have to meet after the budget is submitted to the legislature and come up with a budget calendar,” he said.

He cited the possibility of having the spending measure tackled two weeks after it was transmitted to Congress.

“If I remember it right the budget was submitted July 23 or 24. If we base on last year’s timetable, we started two weeks after the budget was submitted to Congress,” Ungab said.

Abad said they intend to submit the proposed GAA as scheduled, sticking to its tradition to hand over the budget proposal after the SONA.

He said substantial funds would be allocated to finance government’s programs seeking to strengthen country’s inclusive growth such as the conditional cash transfer, K-to-12 basic education, universal healthcare and housing for squatters.

Funding for good governance and anti-corruption programs, projects to minimize disaster risks and for infrastructure would also be prioritized, he said.