The House of Representatives transmitted to the Senate on Tuesday its approved version of the ₱4.506-trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2021, containing bigger funding for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and the distribution of another round of social amelioration program financial assistance to families severely affected by the pandemic.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the Lower House was a day early in transmitting the copy of the budget measure.
Deputy Speaker and 1Pacman Paryt-list Rep. Mikee Romero and other key leaders of the Lower House aired confidence that with the transmittal of the House-approved budget measure to the Senate, the feared re-enactment of the 2020 GAA to be applied for 2021 may no longer be a cause for worry.
The proposed budget law contained amendments that were agreed upon by the so-called “small committee,” a bipartisan group empowered by the chamber to introduce changes to the measure.
Headed by ACT CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, the small committee has reportedly unanimously agreed to increase original allocations for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and the improvement of health facilities in the country.
“We increased the allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by more than three-fold to cover more Filipinos. We also provided extra allocation for the facilities enhancement program of the Department of Health to help improve the country’s health care system,” said Velasco.
₱7.5 B for COVID vaccine
In the proposed National Expenditure Program submitted by the Department of Budget and Management, COVID-19 vaccine procurement for 2021 will get only ₱2.5 billion.
The House amendment proposed ₱7.5 billion, which is ₱2.5 over the original proposed amendment discussed by the small committee.
“This record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Velasco in a statement.
“Not only did we pass the proposed 2021 national budget in a timely, constitutional and legal manner, we also made sure next year’s spending plan will be more reflective and responsive to the needs of the people amid the worst public health crisis in a generation,” the Marinduque solon said.
According to Velasco, the House-approved 2021 GAA also grants the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) additional funding to aid workers displaced as a result of the adverse economic effects of the pandemic.
The House leader also disclosed that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will get additional allocation for another round of financial assistance to families affected by the pandemic.
“The House could not have done it without its hardworking and dedicated members, including the Secretariat, who worked till the wee hours of the morning on a number of occasions to ensure that we pass a budget that is fair, equitable, timely and responsive to the needs of the country as we fight this very serious public health and economic crisis,” Velasco said.
Aside from the DOLE and DSWD, the Lower House small committee had discussed granting the Philippine National Oil Corporation and Energy Regulatory Commission additional P400 million and P100 million, respectively.
A ₱2-billon increase was sought for the Health Facilities and Equipment program while ₱2 billion more was sought to be added to the 2021 budget of the Philippine National Police.