Eyed as stimulus, proposed 2021 budget hurdles Senate
Legislators were able to pass the bill on second and third readings in the same day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent. Without which, lawmakers would have to wait for 3 days after second reading before ultimately passing the measure.
The STAR/Paolo Romero, file

Eyed as stimulus, proposed 2021 budget hurdles Senate

Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - November 26, 2020 - 12:42pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Thursday passed the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for next year, getting the spending plan closer to enactment before the year ends and ensuring funding is available to respond to the health crisis.

Voting 22-0, with no abstentions, the upper chamber approved House Bill 7727 early on its plenary session. Senator Leila de Lima, who is jailed for drug charges, as well as Senator Ronald de la Rosa who contracted COVID-19, did not take part in the voting.

Legislators were able to pass the bill on second and third readings in the same day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent. Without which, lawmakers would have to wait for 3 days after second reading before ultimately passing the measure.

The proposed spending plan will now go to the bicameral conference committee composed of select Senate and House members to resolve conflicting provisions between the two versions of the bill. After the committee deliberates, the measure's final version will go to President Rodrigo Duterte for enactment into law.

The budget’s timely passage will be welcomed by economic managers who are eyeing the bill as one of their stimulus measures to catapult the economy to a convincing rebound from pandemic-induced meltdown.

It would also be a departure from last year when budget passage was delayed four 4 months due to allegations of insertions to benefit certain districts of lawmakers. As a result, the government was forced to temporarily operate under an old 2018 outlay, which did not fund new programs in the 2019 version. That, in turn, dramatically slowed economic growth ahead of an unexpected pandemic.

“Ultimately, what we have is an improved version, where funds are poured into programs, activities and projects that deserve it the most,” Senate finance committee chair Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said in a speech.

“Hopefully, inside the line items of this budget, our people see that indeed there is a path out of this pandemic and recession,” Angara, who sponsored the budget bill, said.

While fulfilling the Executive department’s wish of a quick budget passage, senators did amend numerous provisions in the funding bill, foremost of which was adding P10 billion to coronavirus vaccine procurement, as soon as it becomes available in the market. The House originally only allotted P10 billion to the inoculation.

Funds for contact tracing as well as learning modules for students were likewise increased.

Deliberations of the bicameral committee are also expected to usher in more changes. For one, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco indicated intentions to increase the P20-billion proposed calamity fund next year by another P5 billion, following the damage left by five typhoons that slammed Luzon over the past 2 months. Senate President Vicente Sotto III had said he supports the move.

“We are doubling-down on our commitment to respond more effectively to the pandemic, on our motivation to help more of our people struck by calamity, and our single-minded focus on restarting the economy,” Angara said.

2021 BUDGET ANY SENATE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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