WITH the ratification of the 2021 national budget bill the country was assured of better pandemic response and procurement of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the 2021 national budget prioritizes the health of the Filipinos as well as the country’s economic growth.
The next year’s budget of P4.5 trillion is 9.9 percent higher than this year’s outlay.
Velasco said the enrolled bill on the budget will be forwarded to Malacañang next week for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
“This budget reflects the serious commitment of the Duterte government to defeat COVID-19 and bring the economy back on track,” Velasco said.
“When we keep our commitments to our fellow Filipinos and continue to put their interests first, we will surely overcome the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, Velasco lauded the 21-member House contingent to the bicameral conference panel, led by Committee on Appropriations Chair Eric Yap, for “successfully fulfilling its mission” to reconcile with the Senate the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 7722 or the General Appropriations Bill, and to ensure its swift approval.
“We congratulate the members of the House contingent, especially Chairman Yap, for a job well done. We also thank them for making sure that we avert having government operate under a reenacted budget, which is really not good for our people and the economy,” he said.
Velasco said the final version of the General Appropriations Bill includes a P70-billion allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, including storage, transportation and distribution.
According to Yap, the bicameral conference committee approved several changes introduced by the House. These include additional funding of P44.8 billion for the “Build, Build, Build” program under the Department of Public Works and Highways; and P2 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment or PPE, P434.4 million for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, P462 million for the Medical Health Assistance Program, and P100 million for mental health program, all under the Department of Health.
Yap said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also received a budget augmentation of P3.177 billion, much of which is for the Office of the Secretary’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program or TUPAD.
He said the bicam also increased the budget for Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program and the Government Internship Program (GIP) by P5.09 billion, bringing the total to P19 billion.
The amount will be used for the implementation of TUPAD for workers affected by COVID-19 and for the stipend equivalent to the minimum wage prevailing in the regions of GIP beneficiaries, who are 18 years old and above.
The bicam also allotted P1.6 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its alternative family care program, which is designed to provide protective services for individuals, families and communities in difficult circumstances.