SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday announced the transmittal to the Senate of the House-approved P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021, one day ahead of its October 28 promised date of transmittal.
“The House of Representatives is transmitting today (Tuesday) the approved copy of the P4.506-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to the Senate one day ahead of the promised date,” said Velasco.
After the October 16 approval of the national budget on third and final reading, Velasco immediately thanked House leaders led by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez for ensuring a functioning House of Representatives despite the divisive leadership change last October 13.
“Our deputies and leaders in the Majority and the Minority who have steered the Committee on Rules and the proceedings here in plenary, headed by our Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and [former] Minority Leader Benny Abante, and the captain of the night shift, Rimpy ‘Puyat’ Bondoc [of Pampanga] na totoo namang puyat na puyat. And of course, our Deputy Speakers for presiding over four historical days and nights of this special session. Thank you to all of you,” said Velasco in his closing remarks before he and Romualdez ended the special session called by President Duterte to pass the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 on third and final reading.
Capping four days of marathon deliberations, a total of 267 legislators voted in favor of House Bill (HB) No. 7727 or the 2021 GAB. Only six voted against the measure and no one abstained.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, a member of the small committee chaired by Romualdez, said the 2021 national budget is the most important economic stimulus measure Congress will pass to lift the country out of its challenging circumstances.
“We are proud to transmit this painstaking work of many sleepless days and nights to the Senate in a timely and orderly manner. The House small committee did its very best to ensure that the budget does not have constitutional and legal infirmities as it proceeds to this next stage. As we await the Senate’s version, we will continue to study how best we can introduce programs and projects that will respond to present and new challenges. What immediately comes to mind is typhoon relief for those affected by Quinta during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means.
“We are proud of our changes to the budget. We tripled funds for the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that the poor and the most vulnerable will have access to it. We have also allocated funds for health facilities development to improve our capacity to respond to COVID-19 and other diseases. There are also more funds for social relief under the House-approved version. We have provided additional funding for relief programs for displaced workers, and for another round of financial assistance to families affected by the pandemic. There will be SAP III,” Salceda said.
“The Committees I lead– the Ways and Means Committee, and the Economic Recovery Cluster, will continue to work tirelessly to deliver the economic and fiscal requirements of a sustainable, effective, and responsive budget. We thank the Speaker and the House leadership for its continued confidence in us,” Salceda added.
Velasco said “this record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus [disease-19] pandemic.”
He said the approved version was not only legal and constitutional, but also reflective of the President’s vision to make the life of the people comfortable.
“Not only did we pass the proposed 2021 national budget in a timely, constitutional and legal manner, we also made sure next year’s spending plan will be more reflective and responsive to the needs of the people amid the worst public health crisis in a generation,” Velasco stressed.
“We increased the allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by more than three-fold to cover more Filipinos. We also provided extra allocation for the facilities enhancement program of the Department of Health to help improve the country’s health care system,” Velasco explained.
Velasco said the House-approved version of the budget also has additional funding for the Department of Labor and Employment to aid workers displaced by COVID-19 and for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for another round of financial assistance to families affected by the pandemic.
“The House could not have done it without its hardworking and dedicated members, including the Secretariat, who worked till the wee hours of the morning on a number of occasions to ensure that we pass a budget that is fair, equitable, timely and responsive to the needs of the country as we fight this very serious public health and economic crisis. I am grateful to them for making this chamber truly the House representing the people,” Velasco said.