Duterte certifies 2022 budget bill as urgent

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Duterte certifies 2022 budget bill as urgent
In a message received by the office of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Wednesday, the President certified the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as urgent.
Robinson Ninal Jr / Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has asked Congress to expedite the passage of the proposed P5-trillion national budget for next year that will be crucial for the nation’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

In a message received by the office of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Wednesday, the President certified the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as urgent.

Duterte cited the need for immediate enactment of the GAB, docketed in the chamber as House Bill 10153, in order to maintain and continue the operations of the government.

He said the swift passage of the budget by Congress is crucial in funding programs, projects and activities for 2022 and in ensuring budgetary preparedness to enable the government to effectively perform its mandate.

Velasco and House appropriations committee chair Eric Yap thanked the President for granting their request for the issuance of a certificate of urgency, which would allow both the House and the Senate to pass the 2022 GAB on second and third readings on the same day.

With the President’s certificate, the House was expected to approve the budget measure on both second and third readings last night before going into recess from today until Nov. 7.

Lawmakers were still deliberating on several amendments and realignments to address insufficient appropriations for pandemic response programs as of yesterday.

During budget briefings, congressmen questioned the lack of regular funding for the procurement of boosters for COVID shots and medical supplies as well as for the special risk allowances for healthcare workers (HCWs) in the proposed P242.2-billion budget of the Department of Health.

It was found during hearing that the DOH initially proposed about P104 billion for the purchase of booster shots, but the Department of Budget and Management only earmarked P45 billion under unprogrammed appropriations or funds that would depend on government revenue.

There is also no appropriation for the P50 billion that the DOH needs to fund HCW’s special risk allowance, hazard pay as well as for allowances for meals, accommodation and transportation.

It was also found that the 2022 National Expenditure Program does not include budget for the government’s Libreng Sakay and service contracting program for public utility vehicles (PUVs) that benefited over three million passengers.

The Department of Transportation requested for P10 billion for the continuation of the program, but the DBM rejected the request and did not include it in the DOTr’s proposed P150.76-billion budget for 2022.

Lawmakers also questioned the cut in the budgets of the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman, which they said would violate a provision in the Constitution that prohibits deduction of budget of such agencies from the previous year.

It took the House only a month to deliberate and pass the record budget – two weeks in the appropriations panel and two weeks in plenary.

The swift passage of the budget by the lower chamber would give the Senate time to deliberate on the measure and ensure its passage and enactment before yearend.

Malacañang said the passage of the budget should be fast-tracked to ensure timely delivery of services during the pandemic.

MTRCB budget OK’d

A Senate panel approved the proposed budget of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board for 2022, including an increase of P11 million to support the target establishment of the MTRCB’s information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Sen. Grace Poe, who presided over the Senate budget briefing of the MTRCB yesterday, said the MTRCB’s budget proposal is deemed approved and referred to the mother finance committee including the additional P11 million to cover IT infrastructure.

Ann Marie Nemenzo, MTRCB review and classification division chief, said the MTRCB has started the transition from manual application to online.

Nemenzo said under MTRCB chairperson Maria Rachel Arenas, they were able to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to support the online payment system.

Poe commended the MTRCB’s innovation.

Nemenzo said the board met 100 percent of its revenue collection target in 2020 of P98.8 million, while as of August 20201, it collected 95 percent of its target revenue at P63.8 million.

She said the board reviewed only 35 films for 2021, which were very minimal compared to the yearly average of 200 to 300 films per year. – Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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