HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday lauded his colleagues led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for working very hard in ensuring the swift ratification of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules and President of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is designed to aid President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s programs to address the turbulence caused by coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We acted with dispatch according to the desire of the President to help the economy weather the ill-effects of pandemic. I thank Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and my colleagues for performing under pressure just to ensure the immediate ratification of next year’s national budget,” Romualdez, a lawyer and President of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), said.
It was Romualdez who moved for the ratification of the fiscal measure during Wednesday night’s session presided over by Velasco.
Ako Bisaya party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon commended the leadership tandem of Velasco and Romualdez behind the swift ratification of the national budget and passing the priority measures of President Duterte.
Lagon credited his colleagues for ensuring funds under the 2021 national budget for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, allocating assistance to low-income families and improvement of health facilities.
“Our leaders are working very hard to serve the people first in this time of coronavirus disease-19 pandemic. I personally commend the tandem of Speaker Velasco and Majority Leader Romualdez for doing their very best in ensuring that the President’s fiscal measure is passed on time. The P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 is the first budget to be crafted in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and will help drive the country’s response and recovery efforts,” Lagon, a friend and ally of Lakas-CMD, said.
Ready for Duterte signing
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, assured that the enrolled copy of the 2021 national budget will be sent to Malacañang and will be available for President Duterte’s signature before Christmas.
“Kung kakayanin po ng seven days printing, papasok po kami ng December 18 po ‘yung libro. If not naman po before Christmas pa rin po, maybe December 21, ganun po,” Yap said.
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 (DFPWH); 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 (DoH).
Yap said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) also received a budget augmentation of P3.177 billion, majority of which for the Office of the Secretary’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program or TUPAD. He said the bicameral conference committee also increased the budget for Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program and the Government Internship Program (GIP) by P5.09 billion, bringing its 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 bicameral conference committee also allotted P1.6 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its alternative family care program, which is designed to provide protective services for individuals, families and communities in difficult circumstances.