2021 budget ready for bicam
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has committed that the House will do its part to ensure the timely passage of the General Appropriations Bill to avoid a reenacted budget similar to what happened in the 2019 GAB.
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2021 budget ready for bicam

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are set for the bicameral conference committee on the proposed P4.506-trillion budget for 2021.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has committed that the House will do its part to ensure the timely passage of the General Appropriations Bill to avoid a reenacted budget similar to what happened in the 2019 GAB.

“We have to make sure the GAB lands on President Duterte’s desk for his signature before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Velasco stressed.

The Senate passed yesterday on third and final reading the P4.506-trillion proposed national budget for 2021, designed to help the country recover after being bombarded with serious challenges – typhoons, floods, power outages, internet connectivity problems and a coronavirus pandemic.

With 22 affirmative votes, no negative vote and no abstention, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 7727 or the proposed P4.506- trillion national budget for 2021.

Just recently,Velasco also announced that the House would seek an increase of at least P5 billion in the 2021 calamity fund for the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent strong typhoons.
Velasco said the House would also ensure that other priority programs and legislative agenda of the President would be covered by the budget.

House leaders have also assured senators that there is nothing irregular in the budget bill passed by congressmen last month, contrary to insinuations by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza maintained that the House passed a constitutional budget bill.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t see anything irregular in it (GAB)... I would say that totally there is no more Napoles-type corruption in Congress,” he said during the weekly House media forum, referring to the pork barrel scheme allegedly perpetrated by jailed businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
“I urge the Senate to state clearly where the anomaly in the budget comes from,” he stressed.
The House already formed its contingent for the bicam during session last Wednesday evening.
The panel, led by appropriations committee chairman Eric Yap, will represent the lower chamber to the bicam panel tasked to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 7727 or 2021 GAB.
Yap will be joined by Deputy Speakers Salvador Leachon and Mikee Romero as vice chairs and 16 members from the majority – Deputy Speakers Atienza, Loren Legarda and Robbie Puno; Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Assistant Majority Leader Kristine Singson-Meehan; and Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian.
Also part of the contingent are Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano and independent lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

Recovery budget

Sen. Sonny Angara, finance committee chairman, thanked the Senate leadership and his colleagues for being able to scrutinize the budget bill and stay on schedule towards its timely enactment despite serious challenges.

“The national budget is a recovery budget. Our greatest strategy to rise again from the hardships of the past year we will intensify the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, help those affected by the disaster, revitalize our economy, and most importantly to make the Philippines safer, more prosperous,” Angara said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate worked in record time.

Angara said the proposed amendments demonstrated that senators are doubling-down on the commitment to respond more effectively to the pandemic, on the motivation to help more Filipinos struck by calamities, and the single-minded focus on restarting the economy.

Angara also acknowledged the amendments introduced by his colleagues to the budget bill, which will, among others, strengthen the COVID-19 response, provide assistance to victims of calamities and resuscitate the economy.

Angara said the budget covered COVID-19 vaccines, contact operations, increased funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), improving health facilities, as well as an increase in the budget for the treatment of other diseases.

He said P54 billion was allocated for the unprogrammed appropriations for vaccines, and P21-billion under unprogrammed appropriations for storage, transportation and distribution costs of vaccines.

He said P1 billion was allocated for contact tracing operations and P15.741 billion for continuous hiring/employment of 23,364 health workers.

“We are also allotting significant government funds under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) again to recruit, train, deploy and support our contact tracers—continuing what Congress had started under Bayanihan II,” he said.

Angara said the Senate allocated increased funding under the RITM for its Quality Assurance Program for the country’s COVID-19 Laboratory Network as the pandemic has only highlighted the critical role the RITM plays in safeguarding our society.

While the country is facing a pandemic, Angara said the Senate also allocated increased budget for family super health centers; also to supply, deliver and install dialysis packages in several local government units (LGUs) and communicable diseases with P6.235 billion.

He said significant funding will be set aside to help LGUs build shelter and resettlements, as well as roads, bridges, flood control, and evacuation facilities. This fund may also be used for agriculture support in terms of crops, livestock and fisheries, as well as for social protection mechanisms.

He said P21 billion allocated to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund may now be used for prevention and preparedness activities, such as the training of first-responders, procurement of equipment like lifeboats, and the upgrade and improvement of evacuation centers in poor and highly vulnerable LGUs. He said funding was also provided for permanent evacuation housing projects for victims of the eruptions of Taal and Mayon volcanoes. He said Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance Program for LGUs was P15 billion.

He said the funding was also for the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) to help electric cooperatives prepare better for any form of calamity or disaster.

He said a special provision mandating the Philippine Statistics Authority to fully establish and implement the Philippine Identification System or PhilSys for the national ID system not later than Dec. 31, 2023 to prevent any more delays with the distribution of financial aid.

In the agriculture sector, Angara said funds were also allocated to the Cacao or Coffee Planting and Processing Equipment in the 22 coconut-producing areas, under the National High Value Crops Development Program.

In the tourism sector, Angara said additional funds were also allocated for infrastructure projects in various parts of the country — such as the renovation of airports or airports, ports or ports, as well as roads, bridges and slope protection to prevent landslides.

In the labor sector, he said the funds of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will cover the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged (TUPAD) or Displaced Workers Program and scholarship programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). He said TUPAD / GIP has P15.839 billion, AICS with P12.768 billion, Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) with P102.690 billion, social pension with P23.631 billion, sustainable livelihood program with P4.504 billion, and Supplemental Feeding Program with P3.960 billion.

For the education sector, Angara said the Senate increased to P712.348 billion the funding of the Department of Education, for school supplies, equipment and printing requirements for class modules.

He said the amendments to the proposed budget also involve increases to programs and projects that help with the peace and order situation of the country. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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