Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday the Upper Chamber intended to pass the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 by Dec. 1 after the end of the plenary deliberations on the measure.
In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sotto said amendments to the committee version of the national budget would now be made before its second and third reading in the Senate.
Many of the amendments made by the Senate finance panel to the submitted version were focused on boosting the government’s pandemic response, including the benefits of health frontliners, booster vaccine shots, as well as assistance to affected sectors.
Senate finance committee chairman Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said many of the committee report amendments were still about COVID-19 response and health-related interventions.
“Even the recommendations of our vice-chairpersons for the departments they handle are to learn to cope or live with the virus: help to affected sectors; helping our school system adjust to the resumption of face to face classes, among others,” Angara said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson added: “We cannot overemphasize the importance of next year’s budget because it will be the first for the new administration as it faces humongous problems – including the heavy task of leading the nation to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
Earlier, Angara said the Malacanang-proposed 2022 national budget did not include several key items related to the country’s response to the pandemic.
“Funds are very tight this year because, as noted by our colleagues during the DBCC, it would seem that the budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management is not COVID budget,” said Angara.
He cited the absence of allocation for contact tracing and for testing outside of the booster shot.
“Also, no funds for the testing of the 12 to 17 year olds, no funds for contact tracing, no funds for the Special Risk Allowance of our health workers,” Angara said.
Meanwhile, Sotto said after the budget approval, he would delegate senators to be part of the bicameral conference committee.
The senators said the bicameral conference between the House of Representatives and the Senate could take seven to 10 days.
“That would mean by Dec. 10 or 11 at the most, we would be ratifying the bicameral conference committee report,” Sotto said.
After the ratification of the reconciled versions of both chambers,
the 2022 General Appropriations Bill will be transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
He said this would give the President enough time to review before Dec. 17, if he plans to sign it by Dec. 17.
Congress will adjourn session by then for the Christmas break from Dec. 18, 2021 to Jan. 16, 2022.