House OKs continued adoption of 2020 spending legislation

Published December 14, 2020, 7:20 PM

by Ben Rosario

Citing the devastating effects to public health and economy this time, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill authorizing government to continue spending the current year’s budget allocation for the succeeding year.

MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

With 221 affirmative votes and six negative, the Lower House approved House Bill 6656 to avert the reversion of unspent 2020 funds to the national treasury and continue utilizing the money in implementing programs until 2021.

This is the second time the Lower House approved such measure.  It will be recalled that in 2019, the chamber initiated a similar measure that authorized the Duterte administration to continue spending the year’s allocation until 2020.

Congress cited the delayed passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act as the main reason for granting the spending extension.

Certified by President Duterte as an urgent administration measure, HB 6656 proposes to amend the 2020 GAA for the purpose of bolstering government’s bid to address the adverse effects to the economy and public health of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also gives government enough time to pursue projects that were either delayed or were not executed as a result of the lockdown and quarantine period triggered by the pandemic.

“I am grateful that my colleagues in the House have worked to pass this important legislation that would help support the economic stimulus efforts of the government while the country still battles with COVID-19,” Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said in a statement.

“Through this measure, the government will be able to deploy the remaining significant funding to government agencies and equip them in delivering delayed services and boosting the economic activity in the country leading to its economic growth and recovery,” he added.

Under the bill, all appropriations authorized under the P4.1-trillion 2020 GAA, including budgetary support for government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), will be available for release and disbursement until Dec. 31, 2021.

All six members of the Makabayan bloc thumbed down HB 6656 as they stressed that the two Bayanihan laws have granted President Duterte the power to generate savings to implement necessary programs that would have helped address the COVID crisis.

“While there is a need to continue the programs that cater to the urgent needs of Filipinos amid this raging pandemic, economic recession and aftermath of typhoons, we cannot tolerate inefficiency and incompetence in the utilization of public funds,” said Gabriela women’s Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas.

Brosas explained: “To extend the validity of the 2020 budget is to concede that the national government has been utterly remiss in exercising its powers for the swift delivery of programs and services in time of severe pandemic crisis and calamity.”

“To support the economic stimulus efforts of the government, infrastructure projects funded under the FY 2020 GAA that have been subjected to the procurement process shall be issued corresponding special allotment release orders by the Department of Budget and Management subject to budgeting, accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations,” read the bill as it amended the 2020 GAA.

 
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