Senate Committee on Finance chairman Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said Friday that apart from ensuring the budget for the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 will also fund several new laws that have far-reaching impacts on the lives of Filipinos.
According to Angara, Congress made sure that recently enacted laws would be funded so as not to render them irrelevant, as some of these recent laws were enacted three years ago, over the past year, awaiting the signature of the President or bills that have progressed significantly in Congress.
Angara said these include Senate Bill No. 1520 or the Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program or the “Doktor para sa Bayan Act,” which is now awaiting the signature of the President.
The bill seeks to produce more doctors to attend to the health needs of Filipinos in all parts of the country by providing full medical scholarships to qualified and deserving students.
The measure also contains a provision for the development of medical schools in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), which was also addressed in the 2021 national budget.
“In our budget deliberations, we went over all of the priorities set by the government and the requirements of the different departments and agencies,” said Angara, who led the Senate contingent during the bicameral conference committee.
“We also made sure that our recently-enacted laws would be funded so as not to render them irrelevant,” Angara added.
Next year’s appropriation also ensures that cancer patients would receive much needed assistance in compliance with Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.
Congress provided P620 million to the Department of Health (DoH) for its cancer assistance fund and cancer medicines for children.
Lawmakers also provided P434.5 million for the DoH and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) implementation of RA 11036 or the Mental Health Act.
Angara also said the 2021 national budget provided the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) P3.225 billion to help further expand and improve the coverage of free Internet services in public places.
Under the budget, the Department of Education (DepEd), which received the biggest share, was provided with P1.365 billion for the increase in the teaching supplies allowance for public school teachers.
From P3,500, teachers will receive P5,000 in 2021.
This is contained in Senate Bill No. 1092, which seeks to raise this much needed allowance of the teachers over a span of three school years until it reaches P10,000.
Lawmakers also made sure there is enough funding for the implementation of the national ID system under the Philippine Identification System (RA 11055) which is ongoing. At least P4.32 billion was given to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for its implementation and another P2.5 billion was also included under the unprogrammed appropriations for the same purpose.
Congress also allocated a total of P295 million for the implementation of the Judges-At-Large (RA 11459) and the creation of the Judicial Marshal Service, which is currently pending in Congress.
Also, to comply with the provisions of RA 11293 or the Philippine Innovation Act, P200 million was included in the budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the Innovation Fund and as augmentation to the requirements of the National Innovation Council.
Meanwhile, two newly-created agencies – the Philippine Space Agency and the National Commission of Senior Citizens, will get P313.717 million and P25 million, respectively.
Angara also said the National Academy of Sports, created by virtue of RA 11470, which was enacted last June 9, 2020, will start construction next year with a P729 million funding under the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and P264.6 million under the DepEd for the other requirements for its establishment.
He also said that in order to provide more training for work scholarships under RA 11230 or the Tulong Trabaho Act, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) was provided with P1.021 billion.