âSenate to ensure natâl budget will focus on COVID-19â
Sen. Sonny Angara , who chairs the Senate committee on finance, issued the statement after the chamber received the proposed spending measure on Tuesday from Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.
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‘Senate to ensure nat’l budget will focus on COVID-19’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate will make sure the provisions in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 are aimed at fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and helping the economy recover from recession caused by the pandemic, Sen. Sonny Angara said yesterday.

Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on finance, issued the statement after the chamber received the proposed spending measure on Tuesday from Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.

He said the committee would be thorough in its review of the proposed budget but would “not sacrifice scrutiny for speed” even as he expressed confidence “that we will meet the deadline of a well-crafted budget ready for the President’s signature long before the year ends.”

“There is only one major macroeconomic assumption that underpins next year’s expenditures and that is COVID-19. It will dictate the thrust and content of the 2021 budget. It is through this prism that we will view the budget,” Angara said in a statement.

“As all funds to fight the pandemic will emanate from this spending bill, then it should be a fighting budget not a business-as-usual one. In a nutshell, the challenge is to pass a budget that will help the sick, the health system and the economy recover,” he said.

He said online committee proceedings would not lead to cursory deliberations as recent hearings have shown that distance has only made the questioning from senators more detailed.

“Zoom has allowed them (senators) to zoom in on the small details,” Angara said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, vice chairman of the committee, warned the proposed outlay was high and could widen the projected deficit further as the economy may not recover as fast as the government wants.

He said revenue collections so far have plunged 8.8 percent so the budget must adjust to deficit limits.

“If we know the government is not earning revenues because there’s no business activity, why are we insisting that we top the budget last year? Isn’t it more prudent for us to adjust in the meantime? If we cannot implement infrastructure projects because of the pandemic, why are we budgeting something high?” Lacson said in Filipino via a videoconference with reporters.

He vowed to question the government’s borrowing, which he said has been larger than the projected deficit.

“Why do we borrow more than what we need? Just like a family with a tight budget of only P1,000, so why will you borrow P3,000 with interest?” he said.

Lacson warned it would be the next generation that “will bear the brunt of the huge borrowings.”

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