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House passes national budget

THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the proposed 2021 national budget amounting to P4.5 trillion.

With a vote of 257 yes and only six no, the House of Representatives reaffirmed its commitment to pass the budget on time.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco expressed gratitude to the members of Congress on their swift action on the budget whose main purpose is to help Filipinos and the economy rebound and recover from the impact of COVID-19.

The deliberations and passage of the budget is the agenda of the four-day special session being called by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In his closing remarks, Speaker Velasco thanked House members for responding to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to hold a special session to ensure the timely passage of the government’s spending plan for next year.

He also congratulated his colleagues for their active involvement in the approval of the 2021 budget bill, which is instrumental in addressing the COVID-19 threat and in providing the safety nets and social protection to affected sectors.

“While our businesses are still grappling to recover from huge losses, we need to invest in our economic recovery to facilitate a faster rebound for firms and the small and medium enterprises,” Velasco said.

He underscored the need to restart the economy to be able to create jobs and address the high unemployment brought about by the pandemic.

The third reading approval came minutes after the House passed the GAB on second reading, marking the second consecutive year that the budget bill breezed through its second and third readings on the same day.

Unlike the previous national budgets scrutinized and passed by Congress, Velasco said the 2021 expenditure program was “no ordinary one.”

“It is an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times. There is so much at stake here: our health, the economy, jobs and livelihood, food security, the education of our children, and much more,” Velasco pointed out.

The top agencies to receive the biggest allocations are: Department of Education, P754.4 billion; Department of Public Works and Highways, P667.3 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P246.1 billion; Department of National Defense, P209.1 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P203.1 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P171.2 billion; Department of Transportation, P143.6 billion; Department of Agriculture, P66.4 billion; the Judiciary, P43.5 billion; and Department of Labor and Employment, P27.5 billion.

Included in the DoH budget is the initial P2.5 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines next year.

Meanwhile, Velasco assured his fellow lawmakers and the President that “we will not have a reenacted budget by January 2021.”

“We will transmit without delay the approved 2021 GAB to the Senate and give our counterparts sufficient time to likewise examine the national budget,” he said.

“We will have to work with our counterparts in the Senate to ensure that the key programs critical to our economic recovery and to our continuing fight against COVID-19 get priority funding in 2021.”