The House of Representatives starts deliberations on House Bill No. 7727 or the P4.506-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for next year this Monday.
Congressmen will work hard to ensure smooth plenary deliberations and its final passage before Congress goes on break on Oct. 17, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said Sunday as House Committee on Appropriations chairman ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap is set to sponsor the spending measure Monday.
“Eric is working hard and works well with House Majority Leader Martin (Romualdez). Upon the instruction of Speaker (Alan) Cayetano, the schedules are well-grouped and assignments are well-organized,” Salceda said.
Yap said HB 7727 which was filed last Sept. 22 hurdled his panel Friday.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said, “We are really working hard for the budget to be approved by the House by Oct. 14, before our break.”
Recognizing the deliberations on the budget “will be very challenging,” Yap had appealed to colleagues “for their cooperation, unity, and professionalism.”
“This is the people’s budget and it is our obligation to make sure that the national budget will not only be passed on time, but ultimately, it will respond to the growing needs of our countrymen. More work needs to be done and it is my hope that the entire budget process will not be delayed by whatever issue that the Congress may face in the coming days,” he said.
House Deputy Speaker Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, a presiding officer during plenary sessions, said the House is ready to pass the 2021 national budget in record time.
“The timely passage of the national budget is very crucial to our economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic. We are united with the common goal to get the country back on its feet,” he said.
Abu noted that they also finished the period of interpellation on the bill seeking modernization of the Bureau of Protection (BFP).
“There is not much in the agenda. We have been working very hard in the last few weeks to approve all important bills to ensure another record time passage of the national budget and productive House of Representatives,” Abu said.
HB No. 7727 seeks to strengthen the government’s heath response against COVID-19, continue the government’s infrastructure projects, and help vulnerable sectors recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic.
The spending measure proposes a P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021, which is 21.8 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is 9.9 percent higher or P406 billion more than this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget.
According to the House leaders, led by Yap, the 2021 GAB “will enable us to get back on the road and sustain the momentum we lost when the economy slid into recession in the first half of Fiscal Year 2020 as the GDP growth for the second quarter marked the steepest quarterly decline after 84 quarters of growth.”
They said the low conservative growth “is consistent with the policy of keeping the budget deficit within sustainable levels.”
The national government budget deficit is limited to P1.75 trillion or 8.5 percent of the GDP while the projected FY 2021 disbursements amount to P4.467 trillion, they said.
HB 7727 authorizes the appropriation of P3.263 trillion for the operation of the national government, composed of P3.087 trillion in programmed new appropriations, and P176.3 billion in unprogrammed appropriations.
The programmed new appropriations of P3.086.8 billion, together with the P1.419.2 billion in automatic appropriations which is outside the purview of the GAB, will provide for the appropriation cover for the P4.506-trillion budget, lawmakers said.
Joining Yap in filing the spending bill are House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, House Majority Leader Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “L-Ray” Villafuerte Jr., House Minority Leader Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., Salceda, Batangas Rep. Elenita Milagros “Eileen” Ermita-Buhain, and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, among others.
Cayetano had expressed hope that the national budget for next year will be signed by President Duterte by “first week of December.”
He said they are eyeing to finish the plenary deliberations within 10 days, or two weeks, at the latest.
Cayetano said they hope that either by end of September or by the end of the first week of October, the national budget for next year will be forwarded to the Senate for its deliberation.
He explained that once the budget is signed into law, the procurement and bidding out of many government projects will immediately jumpstart to reboot the national economy and financially assist the sectors most affected by COVID-19.