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House, Senate fast-tracks national budget okay

FOR faster final approval of the general appropriations bill, the House of Representatives and Senate contingents agreed let the heads of the two chambers’ appropriations committees to come up with a reconciled final version of the proposed 2021 national budget.

The two chambers yesterday started the bicameral conference meeting to discuss the disagreeing provisions of the General Appropriations Bill.

The 2021 national budget was pegged at P4.506 trillion.

According to the chairman of the House committee on appropriations Rep. Eric Go Yap, he was authorized by his fellow congressmen to hold a one-on-one meeting with his Senate counterpart, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, to thresh out differences in the separate versions of the two legislative chambers.

Yap said both the House and Senate contingents agreed on the need to conclude the bicam deliberations this week to avert having government operate under a reenacted budget by January.

“Our goal is to finish the budget this week, by Friday,” Yap said during the bicam meeting held at Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.

“Our goal is ultimately the same: to have appropriate funding for COVID-19 vaccines and to allocate budget for regions severely affected by calamities,” he added.

Yap also insisted there were no irregularities in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill, particularly in the infrastructure project allocations for legislative districts nationwide.

“All I see are Multi-Purpose Buildings that can be converted into quarantine facilities. I see budget for building necessary infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. The rest are road networks, valid projects under President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build Build Build program,” Yap pointed out.

Meanwhile, Yap was hopeful that the Senate could accommodate Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s request for a P5-billion increase in calamity fund for the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent typhoons, as well as additional funding for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

Barring any hiccup, Yap said the GAB should reach the President’s desk within three weeks after the bicam deliberation is completed this week.

“We will need three to five days to encode any amendments, then another week to print the budget,” Yap said.

“We are hoping for this to be a Christmas present to the President and ultimately, the Filipino people,” he added.