Senators assure 2021 budget responds to recovery from pandemic, calamities

Published November 26, 2020, 6:58 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators assured that the 2021 budget bill they passed on Thursday will address the country’s needs to respond and recover from the COVID-19 crisis and other calamities that hit the country this year.

Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The budget we have approved is responsive and compassionate enough to hurdle us through the path to recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Grace Poe, one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate finance committee, said in a statement following the chamber’s approval of the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on third and final reading.

Poe, however, stressed that the proposed allocations “must go hand-in-hand with a correct fiscal policy, relevant spending and airtight accountability.”

“The budget should be felt by our people through a stream of social and economic aid that will create opportunities for livelihood and jobs, assist those ravaged by calamities, provide health and education services and expand the productive capacity of the nation,” she added.

She said the Senate will continue to perform its oversight function over the national budget “to see to it that every peso goes to where it is appropriated and acts of misspending will be dealt with.”

Before the approval, finance committee chairman Senator Juan Edgardo

Angara enumerated the Senate’s amendments to the budget bill, which among others, included increases in the allocations for health sector and in consideration of the country’s COVID-19 response.

“The amendments we propose[d] demonstrate that we are doubling down on our commitment to respond more effectively to the pandemic, on our motivation to help more of our people struck by calamity, and our single-minded focus on restarting the economy,” Angara said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, said: “Indeed, this is a very important budget. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and it has nearly paralyzed our economy, has (affected) around 450,000 of our people…killing  about 8,000 of(them). So this budget that we passed today, I think, will help make the country resilient…at least for the year to come.”

Members of the congressional bicameral conference committee will start tackling the differing provisions in the Senate’s and House of Representative’s versions of the GAB over the weekend.