Our budget for recovery will be ready at year’s start

Published October 30, 2020, 4:28 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The proposed national budget for 2021  as approved by  the House of  Representatives has now been  transmitted to the Senate.

In the  final  days of House deliberations on the budget,  the House increased allocations for  programs to enable the government to meet  problems raised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,  the principal problem now facing the country.

Thus the House increased the allocation  of  the  Department of Health  for  the acquisition of  vaccines as soon as these become available.   From P2.5 billion in the original budget  proposal, the amount  was  tripled to P7.5 billion. The amount of P2 billion was also added to the DOH’s program to enhance its overstretched hospital and   other health facilities; and P300 million for  its  mental  health  program.

Added  by the  Small Committee which finalized the House  bill was P2 billion to  the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development  for  assistance to  families affected by  the pandemic

The  amount  of P4 billion was added to the budget  of the Department of Labor and Employment  for  its program of assistance to displaced  workers. The loss of  so  many  jobs  due to the closure of many companies has been one of  our most serious problems today.

The  nation’s  public education program has also been upset by the pandemic, with distance learning systems replacing  face-to-face classes. Thus the budget  of  the  Department  of Education was increased by  P1.7 billion for its  distance learning program  dependent on the Internet, radio and television, laptops for  teachers and tablets for school children.

The House Small Committee also boosted the budgets of the  Armed  Forces of the Philippines for additional aircraft,  P2 billion; the Philippine National Police, P2 billion;  the  Philippine National Oil Co.’s development program for  renewable resources, P400 million; and modernization of the Energy Regulatory Commission, P100 million.

This record-high  budget  is  designed  to further strengthen  government  response and stimulate  economic  recovery  in the wake of  the  coronavirus  pandemic, Speaker  Lord  Allan Velasco said. It  has now  been  sent  to  the Senate, which  may  add  some programs  of its own and perhaps  trim the public works allocations, said to contain construction projects  that may not be urgently needed at this time.

With  its  expected  early  approval by  Congress, the National Appropriation Bill should be ready for President  Duterte’s signature in  December,  so  its  programs can begin in January, 2021.  The Philippines, like all other  countries  on the planet, has been severely set back by the pandemic and it will take the whole of 2021 just to start restoring   the  losses  it suffered  this year.