P4.5T national budget for 2021 gets Senate okay

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    THE Senate yesterday unanimously approved on third and final reading its version of the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021, which highlights additional funding for government measures to manage the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and address the challenges it posed on the country’s economy and healthcare system.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said all 22 senators who were present during the hybrid session voted in the affirmative. Sen. Ronald dela Rosa was absent as he is still recovering from COVID-19, while Sen. Leila de Lima remains detained in Camp Crame for illegal drugs charges.

    Sotto said the bicameral conference committee is expected to convene on Saturday, November 28, to reconcile the differing versions of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    The Senate panel for the bicam consists of Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, and will have as members Senators Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Panfilo Lacson, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Christopher Go, Imee Marcos, Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe, and Francis Pangilinan. Alternate members are Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao, Ronald Dela Rosa, Nancy Binay and Ramon Revilla Jr.

    Angara said the 2021 proposed national budget will be responsive to the government’s needs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and for the country to recover from the effects of the various lockdowns imposed by the government after the outbreak.

    Available data from the office of Angara showed that for COVID-19 response programs, the Senate budget version includes P8 billion for the purchase of vaccines, while P54 billion will be under the unprogrammed appropriations for vaccines, and P21 billion under unprogrammed appropriations for its storage, transportation, and distribution. The Department of Interior and Local Government was appropriated P1 billion for contact tracing operations.

    For the general improvement of health care, the Senate appropriated P6.497 billion under the DOH secretary and another P4.51 billion under unprogrammed appropriations, while a total of P1.68 billion was allotted for the increase in capital outlay of DOH regional hospitals. Also, P462.443 million was appropriated for the prevention of non-communicable diseases and P6.235 billion for the prevention of communicable diseases.

    On social benefits, the Labor Department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) got P15.8 billion, the Social Welfare Department’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) with P12.7 billion, DSWD’s “4Ps” program was appropriated P102.69 billion, social pension P23.6 billion, supplemental feeding program at P3.9 billion, sustainable livelihood programs P4.5 billion, special amelioration program with P10 billion, and continued funding for the national ID program at P4.9 billion.

    The education sector, as mandated by the Constitution, got the biggest share of the budget with P712.348 billion. Support for State Universities and Colleges with medical schools was given P1.039 billion.

    Meanwhile, infrastructure repair, rehabilitation, or upgrading of ports was appropriated P226 million, while the same program for airports will receive P1.2 billion. Enhanced accessibility to persons with disabilities and senior citizens had an allocated budget of P70.27 million.

    The Department of Justice got a net increase of P550.39 million, from the General Appropriations Bill of P22.572 billion to P23.122 billion in the Senate version.

    The Judiciary’s budget increased by P2.2 billion – from P42.343 billion in the GAB to P44.543 billion in the Senate version; while the Department of Information and Communications Technology got an increase of P5.202 billion – P10.139 billion in the GAB to P15.341 billion in the Senate version.

    The complete comparative budget under the GAB and Senate version has yet to be released by the office of Angara.