Duterte vows to fix House speakership row to avoid budget delay

October 9, 2020 - 9:25 AM
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on October 5, 2020. (Presidential photo/Simeon Celi)

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Thursday to settle a leadership row in the country’s parliament, amid concern that squabbling among his allies could delay the passing of an $89 billion budget vital to rebuilding its battered economy.

“Either you resolve your impasse and pass the budget legally and constitutionally. If you don’t, I will do it for you,” Duterte said in a televised address, without saying how he intended resolve it.

The row over a term sharing agreement for the role of speaker in the lower house is threatening to delay the passage of next year’s budget, something Duterte cannot afford as he faces the enormous task of resuscitating the coronavirus-hit economy before his six-year term ends in June 2022.

Duterte has asked Congress to approve a record 4.3 trillion pesos ($88.76 billion) budget for 2021 to finance key infrastructure projects that are expected to generate much needed jobs as the pandemic left millions unemployed.

The firebrand leader, whose allies dominate both houses of Congress, warned “I will do my thing” if nothing happened in the next few days.

The World Bank has said the Philippine economy may contract this year by as much as 6.9%, worse than the government’s projected 5.5% decline. ($1 = 48.4460 Philippine pesos) —Reporting by Karen Lema; editing by Raissa Kasolowsky