HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Monday rallied his colleagues to immediately pass the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 as a major component of the Duterte administration’s comprehensive plan to rebuild the Philippine economy and decisively defeat coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).
Romualdez, who chairs the House committee on rules, appealed to his colleagues to give their full cooperation in ensuring the swift passage of the national budget before the 18th Congress takes its break starting October 17.
“Our hybrid and virtual budget briefings and consultations will proceed so that we will have enough time to raise various concerns. We also appeal to our colleagues to avoid repetitive questions during deliberations,” Romualdez stressed in response to the appeal of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for Congress’ swift enactment of the proposed 2021 national budget.
“Because of a shorter time frame, approving the national budget is turning up to be a Herculean task for all of us. There’s plenty of work ahead, but with all your support, full cooperation and malasakit (compassion), we can guarantee the timely passage of the national budget,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
Despite this, Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and banker by profession, assured that the national budget “will go through a very transparent process of deliberations to fully discuss its merits and main intention to serve the people.”
“We are going to scrutinize the national budget and do our jobs properly,” said Romualdez.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he wants the national budget to be ready for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature either by the end of November or the first week of December.
Cayetano said the House leadership is hoping that the President would be able to sign the new budget by the first week of December but would do its best to allow the Chief Executive to sign it into law as early as the last week of November so it could be implemented as early as possible as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m hoping this time around na kakayanin by the end of November nasa Malacañang na. Kung kaya na mas maaga, bakit hindi?” Cayetano said.
Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mike Romero, president of the 54-strong Party List Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI), thanked Duterte fo allocating P106 billion to about 4.3 million families covered by Pantawid Pamilyan Pilipino Program or 4Ps.
Romero, one of the authors of the law institutionalizing 4Ps or conditional cas transfers, said the aid to the poorest of the poor comprises the bulk of the proposed P169.3-billion 2021 budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Developmen (DSWD), which implements 4Ps.
He said the program grants a monthly subsidy of up to P1,500 to qualified families, provided they comply with certain conditions, including keeping children in school and attending family development sessions.
Romero added that the program funding for 2021 represents an increase of P5 billion over this year’s P101 billion.
“The increase means that more poor families will receive financial assistance from the government,” Romero stressed.