The Senate will thoroughly review the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 even if the hearings will be done mostly through online, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said on Friday.
Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said members of the Upper Chamber will exert all efforts to ensure that next year’s budget will effectively help in fighting off the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country’s health and economic stability.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had earlier submitted to Congress the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget which is 9.9 percent higher than the 2020 budget.
“We will be thorough in our review for that has always been the Senate way. We will not sacrifice scrutiny for speed,” Angara said.
“And I say this with confidence that we will meet the deadline of a well-crafted budget ready for the President’s signature long before the year ends,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Angara had earlier confirmed that the Senate has received copies of the national expenditure program (NEP)
Angara said he believes that the COVID-19 crisis is the only one major macroeconomic assumption that underpins next year’s expenditures.
“It will dictate the thrust and content of the 2021 budget. It is through this prism that we will view the budget,” the senator said.
“As all funds to fight the pandemic will emanate from this spending bill, then it should be a fighting budget, not a business-as-usual one,” he added.
“In a nutshell, the challenge is to pass a budget that will help the sick, the health system, and the economy recover,” added the senator.
The lawmaker also assured that conducting the budget hearings through online will allow for a more comprehensive scrutiny of all the items in the NEP.
The Senate has been conducting hybrid committee hearings and plenary sessions in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Hindi rin po hadlang ang online hearings sa masusi at masinsinan na pagrerepaso ng mga panukalang budget ng mga ahensya (Online hearings won’t be an obstacle for a more detailed and intensive review of all agencies’ proposed budget),” he said.
“Recent Senate hearings have shown that distance has only made the questioning from senators more detailed. Zoom has allowed them to zoom in on the small details,” Angara added.