THE Senate on Monday will officially start its plenary debates on the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.
Committee on Finance Chairman Sen. Sonny Angara said the Senate is on track to pass the budget measure based on a timetable that would put the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on the desk of the President by mid-December or the third week at the latest.
Angara reiterated the importance of passing the 2020 national budget on time in light of what happened with the economy this year due to the delay in the approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.
“So critical is the GAA in fact that because we failed to pass it on time during the previous budget cycle, the country paid a price,” Angara said.
“One adverse impact was a slower GDP growth rate in the first half of the year. Another was that construction and repair of thousands of classrooms were delayed, as were tuition fees of thousands of government scholars across the country,” Angara added.
There were also opportunity losses in terms of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction, public administration and defense, wholesale and retail trade, land transport and education sectors as a result of the government operating on a reenacted 2019 budget for the first four months of the year.
“Indeed, it would have helped many Filipinos in their struggle against poverty if the government’s poverty reduction efforts weren’t derailed,” Angara said.
The country was on the brink of missing its growth target for the year because of the delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget but as a result of the aggressive catch up spending implemented by some key agencies, the economy grew by 6.2% and is on pace to hit its full-year target of 6% to 7%.
Angara believes all members of Congress are cognizant of the pitfalls of a reenacted budget and will work together to pass the GAB within the year.
“The experience has only underscored that for us to maintain our country’s momentum and upward trajectory, we can afford no more delays, especially when public spending can account for up to 20 percent of the entire economy,” Angara said.
With the Duterte administration now in the second half of its six-year tenure, it is building on its legacy and the 2020 budget was crafted to support this.
As in previous years and as mandated by the Constitution, education will continue to take the biggest chunk of the allocations.
Angara said the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will be given the necessary budgetary support to ensure the students’ needs are met and the roadblocks to their uninterrupted studies are removed.
The same goes with health, the demands of which continue to grow as the population increases and with the government committed to provide all Filipinos with free health insurance coverage under the Universal Health Care Act.
“Tuluy-tuloy ang pagbibigay ng tulong sa ating mahihirap na kababayan dahil wala silang matatakbuhan kundi ang gobyerno oras na sila ay nagkasakit. Nais din natin na mahatid ng serbisyong medikal ang lahat ng ating kababayan, lalo na ang mga nasa liblib na mga lugar ng ating bansa,” Angara said.
Improving and expanding the existing modes of public transport is one of the more critical programs of the administration and in order to complete as many of these at the soonest possible time, Angara said Congress will ensure they are covered by the necessary funding, but “work must be done continuously because any delays would be a disservice to the Filipino people.”
“Napapaloob sa panukalang ito ang mga prayoridad, pinahahalagahan at pangarap natin bilang mga Pilipino. Mababatid sana dito na kaakibat ng katuparan ng ating mga pangarap ay ang agarang pag-tugon sa mga pagsubik na kinakaharap natin bilang isang bansa,” Angara said.
“Kaya nararapat lamang na suriin at pag-usapan natin ito nang masinsinan. Nararapat lamang na siguraduhin natin na Malaya ito sa anumang katiwalian.’’
Nararapat lamang na sa darating na araw, ‘wag nating kalimutan na sa dokumentong ito naka-angkla ang kaunlaran at kasaganaa ng ating bayan,” Angara added.