Appropriations committee chairman Eric Go Yap said the chamber has set an initial target of P4.6 trillion for next year’s national budget, higher than the P4.3 trillion earlier set by the executive branch.
Higher budget for 2021 eyed
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is looking into a possible increase in the national budget for 2021 to ensure implementation of necessary measures in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Appropriations committee chairman Eric Go Yap said the chamber has set an initial target of P4.6 trillion for next year’s national budget, higher than the P4.3 trillion earlier set by the executive branch.

“We’re looking into P4.6 trillion, but that’s still up for discussions,” he told The STAR.

“What we can ascertain at this point is that we will pass the budget in time so the needed measures can be implemented right away early next year. We’re racing against time here and we need the health and economic programs for our recovery,” Yap said.

Congress passed the P4.1-trillion national budget for this year in a record period of just one month last year.

The ACT-CIS party-list representative said they would await the National Expenditure Program expected to be submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) later this month for the panel to immediately start budget deliberations.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier asked the executive branch for a bigger 2021 budget to be able to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will tell you now, the House is asking Malacañang not to peg the budget at the 2020 level. It should bigger because we need a stimulus program,” he said in an interview.

The Taguig-Pateros representative explained that the national budget will be crucial as it will be a tool to fund programs that will facilitate faster and better services to help save the lives and livelihoods of the Filipinos.

Cayetano said the chamber will also prioritize other strategies to help address the health crisis.

He identified these measures as the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 Law and economic stimulus measures, particularly the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy Act (ARISE) and COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act (CURES).

Cayetano revealed that economic managers have set a funding of P140 billion for Bayanihan 2, but Congress is still negotiating to increase it to at least P200 billion to better respond to the needs of key sectors.

The Speaker said ARISE and CURES – both already passed by the chamber before adjournment sine die last June – will complete the economic recovery plan.

Cayetano said the ARISE measure, which was spearheaded by House committee on ways and means chairman Joey Salceda, Rep. Stella Quimbo and House committee on economic affairs chairman Sharon Garin, has proposed P1.3 trillion in funds to finance various programs that will provide assistance and wage subsidies to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and the tourism and transport sectors.

CURES bill, on the other hand, involved a P1.5 trillion measure to step up infrastructure development programs that will create more jobs in the rural areas affected by the pandemic. The program will be implemented for three years with a P500 billion budget allocated for each year.

The measure, sponsored by Cayetano and other House leaders, seeks to fund projects under the HEAL-IT sector which includes health, education, agriculture, local roads, infrastructure, livelihood, information and communication technology, and tourism.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado earlier announced that the executive was planning a P4.3 trillion budget for next year said that next year’s budget will focus on labor-intensive projects and activities “to give income opportunities to the most vulnerable and to the most affected sector and workers both in public and private sector.”

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