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Public participation in budget hearings urged

WITH the House of Representatives focusing on coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) response and recovery in the upcoming deliberations on the proposed P4.506 trillion 2021 national budget, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte urged the public to participate directly through social media since the issue is of concern to every Filipino citizen.

“It’s the first time that we’re conducting a budget deliberation hearing under the new normal. So we’re encouraging all sectors to give out their ideas because the priority of the Speaker (Alan Peter Cayetano) for this Congress is to focus on COVID response and recovery,” Villafuerte said in a press conference on Wednesday.

He said while the House leadership is yet to finalize the mechanics and protocols for the people’s direct participation in the budget hearings, the public can leave their comments on the House’s official Facebook page, “House of the Representatives of the Philippines,” during the live stream of the hearings. The lawmakers will then be able to read them and provide answers.

Villafuerte said the House is also looking into the possibility of creating a separate message board and a new social media account to accommodate more participants.

Cayetano had earlier said passing the national budget, which aims for inclusive growth after the pandemic, is a “bigger sign of unity” among the members of the House of Representatives.

“During this time of crisis, it’s important for us to talk about how our kababayans will survive, but as House of the People, it’s more important for us to discuss how our constituents will face the post-pandemic world. Will they have food on their table? Will they have jobs to return to? Will they still have homes after the pandemic? These are the problems we wish to address when we start our budget hearings,” he said.

The House is set to conduct its first set of budget hearings on Friday (September 4) with the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), which is composed of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance (DOF), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Villafuerte said a maximum of 50 attendees will be present physically in Congress, including representatives from each agency to be chosen by their respective departments.

The rest of the House members and the national agencies’ officers will join the deliberations via teleconferencing apps like Zoom.

“The leadership really has to make sure that aside from being transparent and deliberative, kailangan ng safety. So, ili-limit lang talaga ang tao, but at the same time it does not mean naman na naka-Zoom hindi sila magpa-participate. However, kung may issue na kailangan personal (silang makausap), pwede silang ipatawag,” Villafuerte said.

Publication Source :    People's Journal