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A compassionate budget

The Senate deserves all the bragging rights for finalizing a national budget that would dramatically impact people’s lives by providing the means to help them emerge from the double whammy of fhe 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic and the economic crisis it triggered.

Senators did not only meticulously go over the budget, finetuning it to make it fiscally sound; they also did it in record time.

Indeed, a budget plan can only be relevant, meaningful if completed on time.

Let Sen. Grace Poe. chairperson of the Senate Public Services Committee explain the socio-economic ramifications of the measure.

In a statement, Poe said:

The budget we have approved is responsive and compassionate enough to hurdle us through the path to recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It must go hand-in-hand with a correct fiscal policy, relevant spending and airtight accountability.

The budget should be felt by our people through a stream of social and economic aid that will create opportunities for livelihood and jobs, assist those ravaged by calamities, provide health and education services and expand the productive capacity of the nation.

We, in the Senate, will be unceasing in performing our oversight functions to see to it that every peso goes to where it is appropriated and acts of misspending will be dealt with.

The leader of the House of Representatives from wehre the measure originated was pleased by the swift Senate action.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco welcomed the timely passage of the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 in the Senate.

Velasco said the House has formed a 21-member contingent, led by appropriations chairman Eric Yap, for the bicameral conference committee that would reconcile the disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions of the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We now look forward to sitting with our Senate counterparts in conference possibly starting next week to come up with a common version of the budget,” he said.

He said the House contingent would ensure enough funds for the government’s Covid-19 response, especially the procurement of vaccines for an initial 20 million poor Filipinos and eventually for at least 60 million of the country’s population.

He said the record-high budget is the government’s “single most powerful tool” to fight Covid-19 and help the economy and the people recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

The House leader also assured sufficient funding for the rehabilitation and recovery of communities devastated by recent typhoons, including Rolly and Ulysses.

“We should help our people rebuild their lives,” he added.

Congress would also appropriate funds to sustain President Duterte’s other priority programs like Build, Build, Build and his anti-poverty projects, he noted.

“Our goal is to get the 2021 General Appropriations Bill on the President’s desk for his signature before the year ends, so we can prevent a reenacted budget that will not bode well for the economy and the entire nation,” he said.

Yap would be joined by his vice-chairs Deputy Speakers Salvador “Doy” Leachon and Mikee Romero and 16 members from the majority –Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo “Rimpy” Bondoc, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Assistant Majority Leader Kristine Singson-Meehan, Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, Deputy Speaker Jose “Lito” Atienza, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, and Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian.

Also part of the contingent are Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano and independent lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.