Senate Committee on Finance urged to look for excess funds in 2021 nat'l budget to bankroll SAP

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he would ask the Senate Committee on Finance to look for more excess funds in the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget which the government can tap to fund its Social Amelioration Program (SAP).


Drilon said this is necessary to ensure that the SAP -- the P5,000 to P8,000 cash aid given to about 18-million Filipino families during the enhanced community quarantine -- should still be included in the next year’s budget.

“We must provide funding for SAP in the 2021 national budget to combat the worsening poverty,” Drilon said.

“There are items in the budget that we can tap to provide the much-needed cash subsidies to the poor,” he stressed.

Drilon made the call following the Senate discovery of P469-billion worth of lump sums in the proposed 2021 national budget purportedly for the various infrastructure projects of House lawmakers.

He pointed out lump sum appropriations are considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when it ruled on the so-called ''pork barrel'' or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) case.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado had earlier told senators the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would submit an errata containing a list of projects to be funded from the said lump-sum appropriations.

As far as he is concerned, the Senate Minority Leader said the social service sector should receive a bigger budget over infrastructure during this pandemic.

While infrastructure may be beneficial for the economic recovery, the lawmaker said what the people truly need today are food and livelihood.

He said this would help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Filipinos and prevent them from sliding back to poverty, especially since government think-tanks, like the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), estimated that as much as 5.5 million Filipinos could be pushed into poverty next year.

According to Drilon, the proposed 2021 budget “basically leaves the poor to fend for themselves.”

“If we do not increase the allocation for the social services sector, then poverty could be even worse next year. We will be wasting away years of strategies to end poverty,” he said.

“We were winning the war against poverty before the pandemic. We can still win it by providing more meaningful assistance to the poor,” Drilon added.