MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday said that senators plan to submit the P4.5-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill for the President's signature by mid-December, 2 weeks ahead of the yearend expiration of the current national budget.
The Senate hopes to start its plenary debates on the budget on November 10 and have the bicameral committee report approved on December 8, Sotto said in an online interview.
"We will probably start 10 a.m. or 9 a.m., and probably end up around 12 a.m., para lang matapos namin 'yung (just to finish the) period of interpellations by November 17," he said.
The chamber can finalize the amendments and approve the 2021 budget both on second and third reading on November 24 "because it is certified as urgent," he said.
The timetable can be achieved should there be no deadlocks between senators and House members in the bicameral conferece, Sotto said.
"Hindi naman sa kinakabahan ako... Pero nangyari kasi in the past na pagdating sa bicam, hindi kami nagkakasundo sa amendments," he said.
(Not that I'm nervous, but it has happened in the past that when we got to the bicam, we had conflicts on the amendments.)
"Magkakatalo 'yan kung ang amendments ay sticking out like a sore thumb," he said, noting that in previous budgets, senators flagged "parked funds" or budget items that do not have clear appropriations.
(There will be conflicts if the amendments are sticking out like a sore thumb.)
The Senate was supposed to receive the House's approved version of the budget in the first week of October, but the transmittal was delayed by about 3 weeks due to a power struggle for the Speakership earlier this month.
The House managed to send the 2021 budget to the Senate on October 27 under new Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
Sotto said he is scheduled to meet with Velasco and other peers on October 30. The Senate President did not disclose the meeting's agenda.
"Kami sa Senado (We in the Senate), we try our best to be cooperative... I don't see any problem. Madali mag-usap (It's easy to have discussions)," he said.