House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez on Friday credited teamwork and cooperation of his colleagues on the final amendments of the proposed 2022 P5.024 trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2022 designed to rebuild the economy and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House is expected to transmit to the Senate the money measure on Oct. 27.
“Thank you to the leaders and members of the House of Representatives led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for working very hard in crafting a responsive and relevant national budget, which would address the needs of the country in recovering from the effects of the pandemic,” said Romualdez, representative of Leyte's first district and chairman of the House committee on rules.
House committee on appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap earlier bared P65.5-billion worth of realignments by the small committee in the national budget, includeing P20-billion for the procurement of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines and booster shots and P4.5 billion for healthcare workers’ special risk allowance.
Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, said the House pushed for amendments that would address the country’s need for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, health concerns to improve the capacity to respond to pandemic and other diseases, and other items such as financial assistance to ensure that the poor and most vulnerable sectors will have access to government resources.
“The small committee did painstaking work to ensure that the national budget that we are about to transmit to the Senate will pass the legal and constitutional test,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said it was also wise for the Duterte administration to anchor the economic recovery on a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which is now picking up steam.
“We are on the right track in recognizing mass vaccination as the key to economic rebound. Despite limited global supply, our vaccination is picking up steam and is getting the results that we wanted for our economy,” Romualdez added.
Meanwhile, Speaker Velasco said: “We are very proud of this budget and what it will do to help our country recover from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."
“We believe the House delivered a budget that directly responds to the greatest needs of the Filipino people amid this unprecedented global health crisis.”
Velasco said the lower chamber’s version of the budget measure included institutional amendments designed to help boost the government’s COVID-19 response, as well as upgrade the assets of the Philippine Air Force and fund state universities and colleges in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The institutional amendments were vetted and approved by the five-member committee formed by the House to consolidate individual amendments on the proposed 2022 national budget as contained in House Bill 10153.
The panel was composed of Committee on Appropriations Chair Eric Yap, Majority Leader Romualdez, Committee on Ways and Means Chair Joey Salceda, Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo, and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.
Velasco thanked the committee for “painstakingly putting together the amendments introduced by individual members in order to create the highest quality budget.”
In line with its commitment to give higher spending priority to health care, Velasco said the House is providing the Department of Health additional funding of P29.5 billion for procurement of more COVID-19 vaccines, providing medical assistance to indigent patients, and ensuring special risk allowance of public and private health workers. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The House leader said an additional P5.5 billion will be given to the Department of National Defense for the purchase of five brand new C-130J planes for the PAF.
“This will allow the Air Force to effectively fulfill its mandate of protecting the nation’s airspace, and to continue responding to disasters and transporting medical equipment and supplies during this pandemic,” Velasco said.
He said the House also set aside P504 million for the operational requirements of four SUCs in the BARMM that were unfunded in the National Expenditure Program.
These are the Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College in Lanao del Sur, Cotabato State University, Sulu State College, and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College.
“We have decided to restore the budgets of the biggest SUCs in BARMM to avert their possible closure. We are not just trying to save thousands of jobs, we are also making sure that these institutions will continue to educate and mold students into future leaders of Muslim Mindanao,” Velasco pointed out.
Under the House version of the 2022 GAB, an additional P10 billion is allocated to the Department of Labor and Employment for its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD Program.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development will receive a total of P11 billion for the implementation of its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation or AICS Program and Sustainable Livelihood Program.
The Department of Transportation—through the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board—will get an additional P6 billion for its Service Contracting Program, which extends assistance to pandemic-hit transport drivers and operators while at the same time providing free rides to the commuting public.
To fast-track the country’s digital transformation, P3 billion has been allocated for the National Broadband Program of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
"Our intention in passing this budget is two-fold: addressing the pandemic while paving the way towards revitalizing our economy. We made sure that while there is sufficient funding for our health sector in battling the pandemic, there is also enough funding for other agencies to help create jobs, pump prime the economy, and move the country forward," Velasco noted.
The House chief maintained that the overall objective is for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to sign the GAB into law by December to prevent a reenacted budget that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services.
“It is important to us that the national budget is passed on time to enable the government to implement programs and projects in a timely manner,” Velasco said.
He added: “We will work with our Senate counterparts to ensure that the key programs critical to our economic recovery and to our continuing battle against COVID-19 get priority funding in 2022. Together, we can fight and overcome this pandemic.”