Senators back extension of 2021 budget validity

Published November 24, 2021, 12:31 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Some senators have expressed their support for the proposed extension of the validity of the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) until December 2022.

“Yes. I support extending validity of 21 budget,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a message to reporters on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

“It will strengthen our ability to fight COVID-19 and hasten economic recovery by creating more jobs,” Recto further stressed.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also said he supports this proposal especially in view of a dismal disbursement rate of 31.5 percent due to the pandemic.

“That means, for every P1,000 the Congress appropriated, only P300 is disbursed this year. That is unacceptable especially when we look at the statistics: 4.2 million Filipino families experiencing involuntary hunger and 4 million Filipinos unemployed,” Drilon said.

“We should use the budget in order to generate economic activities, feed Filipinos and create jobs amid the pandemic,” he stressed.

Drilon also said the extension of the national budget “should carry with it a tall order to every agency to make sure that every peso that is appropriated is spent in a judicious and timely manner.”

“Underspending is like a disease that impedes our growth. I urge Congress to carry out its oversight of the national budget and monitor the spending of the budget,” he pointed out.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also supports the extension of the 2021 budget’s validity and hopes other senators will also back the proposal.

“We personally support the extension and hopefully our colleagues in the Senate will too because of the extended lockdowns and occurrences budget and project implementation has been less efficient and smooth,” Angara said.

“And rather than the funds reverting back to the national treasury, it would be better for the country’s recovery if we were to extend the effectivity of the 2021 budget in order to implement projects and fund programs which might have been delayed during the year for one reason or another,” he added.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, however, said the Senate will have to discuss the proposal more deliberately this time.

“I have always questioned the practicality of shifting from obligation-based budgeting system in favor of a cash-based system,” Lacson said.

“Since it was adopted by the DBM under then Sec Diokno, I don’t remember a GAA’s one year validity not being extended either via a joint resolution or a law being passed by Congress. So what’s the point?” he further pointed out.

Lacson reasoned out a cash-based budgeting is impractical especially if a government agency has no sense of urgency to implement or at least obligate their budget within the one-year validity period.