Various sectoral organizations, networks, and institutions urged Congress Wednesday to pass a national budget which would address the health and economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as it starts plenary deliberations on the 2021 General Appropriations Bill this week.
Stakeholders from various sectors have banded together to lobby for a pandemic-responsive 2021 budget under the “People’s Budget 2021” campaign network.
The stakeholders said next year’s budget should focus on three priorities: Health, aid, and education.
IBON Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa said that the P4.5-trillion national budget proposed by the Executive for 2021 “seems oblivious” to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented loss of jobs, livelihoods and businesses it has caused.
“It’s like Malacañang is in a state of denial on the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” he added.
Compared to the 2020 expenditures passed by Congress – which includes the 2020 General Appropriations Act and the Bayanihan 1 and 2 packages to address the pandemic – the proposed 2021 budget would in effect slash the budget of the DoH by P21 billion.
It would also slash cash subsidies amounting to P206 billion under the DSWD, P209 billion under the DoLE, and P5.6 billion under the DOTr. Support for micro, small, and medium establishments hit hard by the pandemic would be reduced by P55.7 billion while support for farmers for food production would be reduced by P35.4 billion.
CURE COVID spokesperson and former Department and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo noted that the harsh impact of the pandemic in terms of health and the economy will be felt until 2021 and even beyond.
“We have all this talk about a ‘new normal’ yet the budget for next year seems to bring us back to the ‘old normal’ of massive infrastructure, military, and ‘pork barrel’ spending coupled with massive debt servicing,” Taguiwalo added.