– Majority Leader lauds colleagues for ensuring swift OK of 2021 nat’l budget
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 in addressing the turbulence caused by the 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,” said Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
Romualdez had moved for the ratification of the fiscal measure during Wednesday’s night session presided 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.
NATIONAL BUDGET READY FOR PRRD SIGNATURE BEFORE XMAS
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.
GOV’T IN BEST POSITION TO BEAT COVID-19
Velasco said the Philippines will be in a better position to beat COVID-19 and recover from its devastating impacts next year after the House of Representatives ratified the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.
He 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.
STRONG FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means and vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the early passage of the national budget “will be a strong foundation of our 2021 economic recovery.”
“We can focus on economic relief and the vaccine rollout. The ball will be in the President’s court early, so there is almost no risk that we will face a delayed budget enactment this year. That can only mean well for 2021 economic recovery,” Salceda explained.
Salceda said that the budget reflected an around P300 billion increase in infrastructure that he sought from the economic managers during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I had conversations with the economic managers. We came up with four agreements. First was an increase for infra spending by around P275 billion. That materialized. Second, the rollout of credit measures that will activate P551 billion in credit stimulus. Third, to set 9.0% as the growth target for 2021. And fourth, to have a third or even fourth stimulus package,” Salceda said.
“This was a conversation we had in April. In retrospect, that conversation was prescient. Government should have been more aggressive with encouraging credit and bridging borrowers with lenders. We should still push for another round of economic relief. And we should not concede the growth targets for next year,” Salceda said.
Apart from P1.1 trillion for infrastructure, the 2021 budget also includes P7.6 billion in additional spending for adapting to the post-COVID life, including items on telecommunications enhancements.
The budget also includes P203 billion for healthcare.
Velasco said the final version of the GAB includes a P70 billion allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, including storage, transportation and distribution.
The following are the 10 departments and agencies with highest allocations under the national budget for 2021: Education (Department of Education or DepEd, State Universities and Colleges or SUCs, Commission on Higher Education or CHED, and Technical Education, Skills, and Development Authority or TESDA) – P708.2 billion; DPWH – P694.8 billion; DoH, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth, Vaccines – P287.5 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government or DILG – P247.5 billion; Department of National Defense or DND – P205.5 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD – P176.7 billion; Department of Transportation or DOTr – P87.4 billion; Department of Agriculture or DA – P68.6 billion; Judiciary – P44.1 billion; and DoLE, – P36.3 billion.