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House ends Deliberation on Reduced Budget of the OP

Date: 12 September 2017; Type: Legal News; Source: House of Representatives

The House of Representatives on Monday terminated its period of deliberation on the P6 billion proposed budget of the Office of the President (OP) for next year.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (3rd District, Quezon) led House members in scrutinizing the OP budget.

Committee on appropriations chairman Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City), sponsor of the OP budget, said the OP budget next year is 70 percent lower than its present allocation of P20.17 billion.

“So they reduced the requested amount earlier announced?” Suarez asked.

The bulk or P15 billion of the OP budget for this year has been allotted for the country’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits and other related events.

Aside from the budget, Suarez also took up with Nograles the issue regarding the chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission or ERC.

“I understand the chairman of the ERC, Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar is now under suspension. Is the ERC still functioning normally?” he inquired.

Suarez said the ERC plays a vital role in the power industry and that the ERC is supposed to monitor reasonable pricing in terms of distribution of power, as well as monitoring those who will be applying to put up power plants, among others.

He likewise asked about the structure of the ERC and how the chairman is selected.

“Is it by voting among the commissioners or it is an appointment by the President,” Suarez asked.

Nograles said Salazar is currently serving his suspension until December of this year without pay.

He said the chairman is appointed by the President. The chairman must be a member of the bar or a lawyer, among other things.

He said the chairman is appointed by the President and the chairman. He must be a member of the bar or a lawyer, among other things.

Suarez asked if the President can technically fire the ERC chairman to which Nograles replied that he can if there are cases against the chairman. The President, upon due process and since it is within his powers, may terminate the services of the chairman, said Nograles.

“The OP is still conducting its inquiry, investigating the other charges that were filed against Chairman Salazar,” Nograles said.

Suarez reiterated the vital function of ERC considering that it involves power and asked the Executive to hasten the decision on the issue of the ERC chair.

Nograles said there is a commitment from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea of the OP that they will proceed expeditiously but with the colatilla that the case has to pass due process.

Suarez also asked what the OP has been doing to resolve the issue on the leadership row at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

“I understand that there are some minor issues between the chairman and the general manager. What is the law on SBMA?” Suarez asked.

Nograles said that they have repealed Executive Order (EO) 340 and will now revert to the old law that there will be only one head of SBMA.

“There is an existing EO separating the functions of the chairman and the administrator and that was the one that created confusion. It is now in process that the President will now be signing a new EO repealing the present EO and thereby revoking the old law wherein the administrator is ex-officio chairman. So there will no longer be confusion,” Nograles explained.

Suarez also called on Medialdea to expedite the resolution because as long as the issue is not resolved, the leadership row at SBMA will still continue. “The port plays an important role in the economy of the country,” he said.

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