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Senate, House to start bicam meeting on 2022 budget

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate, House to start bicam meeting on 2022 budget
Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the committee on finance, will lead the Senate delegation while ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, chairman of the House appropriations committee, will head the contingent from the lower chamber.
STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee of the Senate and House of Representatives will start meeting today to reconcile conflicting provisions of the proposed P5.024-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2022 and come up with a final version of the spending program for President Duterte’s signature before the end of the year.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the committee on finance, will lead the Senate delegation while ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, chairman of the House appropriations committee, will head the contingent from the lower chamber.

The Senate passed last week its version of the GAB taken from the counterpart measure approved by the House in October with well over P100 billion in amendments, mostly realignments to the health sector.

Angara said the Senate version of the GAB has the health sector getting the third biggest share of the budget, in light of the emergence of Omicron, a COVID-19 variant that is believed to be more contagious.

The Senate allocated a budget of over P226.7 billion for the Department of Health (DOH), much higher than the P182.67 billion appropriated under the GAB passed by the House.

Angara said some of the increases in the budget were related to the pandemic response, such as COVID-19 benefits and compensation for health care workers, COVID-19 human resource for health emergency hiring, laboratory network commodities, DOH’s epidemiology and surveillance program, operations for national reference laboratories like the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, hiring and training of contact tracers, purchase of drugs and vaccines, as well as an increase in the budget operations of DOH hospitals nationwide.

He said sizable funding was provided to SUCs, especially for schools of medicine. The budgets of the Department of Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority were likewise increased as they prepare to expand face-to- face classes next year.

He added that budgets for some programs of the Departments of Social Welfare and Development and the Labor and Employment, Agriculture, Trade and Industry were also increased to meet the demands next year.

Angara informed his colleagues that the budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has been increased from P4 billion to P10 billion.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is running for president under Partido Reporma, hoped voters would be wise enough to elect an experienced leader who is prepared to fix the problems of the nation, particularly budget reforms.

The former national police chief and veteran lawmaker, who earned a reputation as a national budget watchdog in the Senate, vowed to institute a corruption-free government under his presidency through exhaustive fiscal reforms.

“Once we solve our problem with corruption in government, more than 50 percent of the problems of this country will be solved. Study this issue. That is the reality, it is what it is, we just need to get rid of corruption,” Lacson said in Filipino.

He said he wanted to reconcile the national budget with tax and revenue collections, which kept falling short over the years, leading to increased domestic and external debts.

GAB SENATE
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