Leaders of the House of Representatives are divided over the proposed inclusion of funding allocation for the cash subsidies for low-income households in the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.
Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria and Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said they will push for a Social Amelioration Provision (SAP) funding provision in the next year’s national appropriations.
“SAP should continue and be included in the proposed national budget, but it must be in-kind, like giving rice to poor families,” Sagarbarria, chairman of the House Special Committee on West Philippine Sea, said in a text message.
Barbers, chairperson of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, agreed that SAP should be included in the national spending plan, recognizing that the pandemic crisis would produce more poor families.
“If there’s no vaccine in sight until next year, we should continue to roll out financial assistance to low income families next year,” he said in a text message.
However, other House leaders do not see the need to include SAP funding in the proposed 2021 national budget.
“If it’s SAP funds, I don’t think we have a need for that in next year’s budget. We have Bayanihan Part 2 and there’s a lot of room for government to implement what they deem is necessary. If things really get worse then Congress can always respond,” Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor, chairperson of the House Committee on Public Accounts, said.
Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Ways and Means, even noted that “SAP balance is covered in Bayanihan 2.”
For his part, Transportation Chair and Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento maintained that “giving employment to help our people survive the pandemic is more sustainable than giving dole-outs.”
He recently filed House Bill 7591 or the proposed “Employment Generation Through Infrastructure Investment Program (EGTIIP) Act”, which mandates local government infrastructure projects to have an allotment of at least 10 percent of the total project cost for labor-intensive items of work to be called “COVID-19 Items of Work.”
Under the bill, the COVID-19 Items of Work involves minor construction work related to the infrastructure project such as but not limited to, construction of foot paths, construction/rehabilitation/ improvement of sanitation facilities, construction/ rehabilitation of community facilities, installation of small-scale water supply system of schools etc. It should not involve items of work which necessitates the use of equipment.
“Through this measure, employment should be ramp up rather than amelioration,” Sarmiento said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon vowed over the weekend to push for the inclusion of SAP in the proposed national budget for next year.
Under the already-lapsed Republic Act NO. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, around 18 million low-income families are entitled to receive a P5,000 to P8,000 emergency cash subsidy for two months depending on the minimum wage rate in their regions.
In a congressional budget briefing, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told the senators that the national government is more focused on improving the economic landscape and creating jobs for economically-dislocated families.