Malacañang has appealed to the Senate for a quick but efficient passage of the P4.506 trillion 2021 national budget which the House approved on third and final reading Friday night.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque hoped Saturday the House would transmit its printed copy to the Senate as soon as possible to give the latter “ample time” to act on the legislative measure, which has been certified urgent by the President.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar echoed Roque’s statement as he also hoped for a “swift” and “efficient” Senate deliberation.
“As the 2021 GAB progresses to the Senate for its deliberation, the House of Representatives’ approval of the bill will go a long way in helping support and realize the Duterte administration’s outlined undertakings, responses, and programs for our collective recovery from the adverse impacts of COVID-19,” Andanar said.
“We hope that the Senate’s deliberation on the 2021 GAB will be swift and efficient...for us to be on track towards fulfilling our mandate to the Filipinos and our goal of healing, rebounding, and recovering as one nation.”
“We thank the House of Representatives for passing on third and final reading the 2021 General Appropriations Bill on time or within the special session called by President Rodrigo Duterte,” Roque said in a statement Saturday.
The President has several times mentioned the importance of the timely passage of the budget, as the government needs resources to fund its interventions to ease the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roque said.
For his part, Andanar lauded Congress, under House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco, for the approval of the 2021 national budget.
“As the 2021 GAB progresses to the Senate for its deliberation, the House of Representatives’ approval of the bill will go a long way in helping support and realize the Duterte administration’s outlined undertakings, responses, and programs for our collective recovery from the adverse impacts of COVID-19,” he said.
The House approved the P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021, reaffirming its commitment to pass the highest quality budget that would help Filipinos and the economy rebound, reset and recover from the adverse impact of COVID-19.
Capping four days of marathon deliberations Friday, a total 257 legislators voted in favor of House Bill 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). Only six voted against the measure and no one abstained.
“It is an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times. There is so much at stake here: our health, the economy, jobs and livelihood, food security, the education of our children, and much more,” Velasco said.
He expressed his gratitude to the President for “taking a principled, decisive leadership” in calling for the special session, which allowed House members to further scrutinize the agency budgets and to thresh out issues relevant to each department and concerned sector.
“We have provided every representative the opportunity to raise issues, clarify any misconceptions, and recommend how we can make the budget truly responsive to our current and pressing needs and conditions,” he said.
“Every member of this institution has something to contribute and deserves to be heard. That we can do better by listening to one another and working together, for our people deserve nothing less,” Velasco added.
At the same time, Velasco said he was proud of the 2021 GAB for being “truly reflective and responsive to the needs of our people.”
The agencies which received the biggest allocations were as follows: Department of Education, P754.4 billion; Department of Public Works and Highways, P667.3 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P246.1 billion; Department of National Defense, P209.1 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P203.1 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P171.2 billion; Department of Transportation, P143.6 billion; Department of Agriculture, P66.4 billion; the Judiciary, P43.5 billion; and Department of Labor and Employment, P27.5 billion.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means panel, said P893 billion or almost a fifth of the budget was for the country’s COVID-19 response.
Of the P893 billion, P2.5 billion will be for the procurement of anti-COVID-19 vaccines. The Department of Health, however, said the amount is P10 billion short to cover as much as 20 million Filipinos.
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante said the amount would only cover 3.9 million Filipinos.
ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the chamber would transmit the budget bill to the Senate by Oct. 28, as requested by Sotto.
Senators earlier warned that submitting the money measure after that day would delay the passage of the budget bill.
“We will do as the Senate president wants. We’ll find a way to give them the budget,” Yap said in Filipino, adding that newly elected Speaker Lord Allan Velasco had already committed to submitting copies of the budget by that date.
With the bill’s approval, Yap said the House will form a small committee to accept, evaluate and study proposed amendments from respective government agencies.
Agencies will be given until Monday to submit their proposed amendments, he said.